PMA Consulting, LLC

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Seeking the Glass Slipper: Community & Technical Colleges

Photo Credit: Witt Associates

Community and technical colleges are the largely unsung heroes of economic development. Imagine an institution that leverages public funding to develop a skilled workforce, provides individuals with the tools needed for success in life AND attracts jobs to a region. Talk about a slam dunk fundraising case for support!

In the Carolinas, there are nearly 80 community and technical colleges serving hundreds of thousands of students, if not over a million collectively, each year. And yet, unlike their four-year cousins, community and technical college foundations too often underperform in seeking contributed revenue – this despite a case for support (Jobs! Economic development! Local impact!) custom made for the times in which we live.

So, what’s holding them back? For one thing, community and technical colleges are relative newcomers to philanthropy, driven to consider the potential for contributed income as an uncertain future for public financing and a rebounding economic climate threaten traditional income streams. But Patton McDowell & Associates has discovered other perceived impediments to fundraising success:

Creating a Culture of Philanthropy – Unaccustomed to flexing their philanthropic messaging, community and technical colleges too often rely on marketing messages designed to drive enrollment, not attract donors. Developing a culture of philanthropy is largely a function of communicating effectively, and these institutions must contemplate the story they want to tell the community.

Leveraging Corporate Connectivity – The boards of community and technical college foundations are often a who’s who of local industry. Translating that latent corporate connectivity into charitable dollars is often more difficult than it appears. The relationship between these public institutions and the companies that hire their graduates must be examined.

Generating Alumni Giving – The classic assumption is that two-year institutions have difficulty developing affinity with graduates, many of whom leave for four-year institutions. While some seem to be working on the problem, others are not even trying to connect with alumni, having given up years ago. Advancements in technology make this a mystery worth solving.

In the end, solving the revenue problem for technical and community colleges will unlikely be the result of seeking a “glass slipper” – the big grant, the bond issue, the one angel investor – that will solve all problems. PMA’s approach? A comprehensive plan for raising foundation funding coupled with thoughtful contemplation about the resources needed to execute the plan.