Community Colleges: Don’t Squander This Opportunity

Community colleges are having a moment.  Foundation directors and advancement teams: take advantage of it.

You and I know that community colleges power our economy.  They also provide an access to education that breaks down barriers and builds bridges across neighborhoods.  In short, America has never needed two-year and community colleges more than we do right now.

It’s our job to make sure donors realize the importance of community colleges, particularly as donors are stepping forward to help solve problems.

Yes, donors are giving…and giving big. 

Stacy McIlduff, Vice President of Development and External Affairs at SUNY Schenectady notes, “We have done a lot to communicate with our donors about how their support is being put to good use as our region grapples with widespread job loss and financial strain caused by the pandemic. In many ways, it has opened doors with lapsed donors and friends who maybe haven’t responded to us in a while.”

Many of our nonprofit partners have seen record giving.  Gifts are spread across sectors, not just front-line organizations fighting COVID-19 or nonprofits that are working for racial justice.  Don’t be shy about approaching donors, because the work your community college is doing right now is key to long-term recovery. 

“We are privileged to educate the next generation of nurses, political leaders, social workers, and direct support professionals. Our alumni are on the front lines,” says McIlduff.

Our communities cannot get back on their feet without an educated or skilled workforce.  And because many businesses will never reopen, community colleges will be there to train new skills.  Retraining and a new degree doesn’t just help the student—it is the difference between unemployment and making a meaningful contribution to a community.

As we, as a nation, grapple with issues of race and gender inequality, education is key to change.  And for so many Americans, the accessible and affordable education provided by a community college is too often all that is available to them.  Explains McIlduff, “Our student populations are more ethnically and economically diverse than larger universities, which may mean two-year institutions are better prepared to initiate real change.”

Three ways to make your case…today:

  • Pick up the phone and call your major donors.  Tell them about some of the ways you are using their investment to drive economic recovery, or how their gifts are building a more equitable community.  Be prepared to answer this question: “How can I help” because in our experience, these conversations lead to new offers of assistance.  
  • Profile current students and alumni to show the life-changing work being done on your campus.  Share these profiles with your donors and across your social media platforms.
  • Interview business leaders who rely on the skilled workforce your college provides.  Use their quotes in appeals.  Better yet, ask a prominent business leader if they would consider signing an appeal letter together with the college president. This first-hand testimonial would be powerful.  

In your talks with community members, be ready to share how your institution is working to safely welcome students back this fall, be it in-person or online.  It can be difficult to answer, and donors aren’t expecting you to have it all figured out yet.  But they are interested in what you’re doing to ensure student safety and academic integrity.

However you decide to make your case, do it now before the window closes.  As we recover from the pandemic and our attention turns to other, more mundane, subjects, our routines will return.  Take advantage of the disruption and let donors be part of your solution. 

Thank you for the good work you do everyday on behalf of communities across our country.  With donor support, the possibilities are endless.   

To see other ideas to fundraise today, click here

To schedule a free strategy session with one of our higher ed senior consultants, click here.

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