The university’s efforts to engage its large and loyal fan base got some national attention last week when a professional association lauded NC State for its dramatic progress in fundraising over the past three years.
CASE, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, announced that NC State has earned a 2013 CASE Educational Fundraising Award, an honor given to superior fundraising programs at educational institutions across the country.
“This award is an affirmation of the hard work that everybody has been making in the fundraising and alumni relations programs across campus,” says Nevin Kessler, vice chancellor for university advancement. “It’s a great way to celebrate the return on the investment that we’ve made.”
That investment – in both people and technology – has helped NC State exceed its fundraising goals in difficult economic times. The results have been impressive. Last fiscal year alone the university pulled in a record $111.4 million in gifts and pledges, increased the endowment by more than $36 million and raised $1.9 million in annual giving, a whopping 34.5 percent jump over the previous year.
That came on top of a particularly strong 2011, in which the university received a $40 million donation – the largest gift in NC State history – from alumnus Lonnie C. Poole Jr. and his wife, Carol Johnson Poole.
It took a coordinated effort to drive these results, says John Taylor, associate vice chancellor for advancement services. He leads the department that oversees the university’s alumni and donor database, processes gifts and conducts research about potential contribution opportunities.
“We’re going gangbusters,” he says. “It’s all about making it easier for our major gift officers and fundraisers across campus to identify and reach alumni and potential donors.”
To do that, Taylor’s team has implemented a data mining tool and reporting system for fundraisers, collected extensive employment data on alumni and upgraded key software programs. His colleagues in annual giving introduced an automated phone system three years ago to improve the efficiency of their “phonathon” outreach.
The new technologies have resulted in more contacts between fundraisers and potential supporters. Last year, first time visits to potential donors soared 57 percent over 2011, and face-to-face contacts overall rose for the third straight year.
The Alumni Association has also thrived. The organization sponsored more than 115 registered events last year drawing more than 14,000 alumni, family and friends. And more than 30,000 people attended other events, such as National Wolfpack Service Day, the Homecoming Parade and the NC State Alumni Network basketball and football game watches.
The energy at NC State is exciting, says Kessler. And it comes from the top.
“Chancellor Woodson has a unique ability to inspire the Wolfpack community – faculty, staff, students and alumni – with a shared vision for the future,” he says. “That resonates with donors. Philanthropists want to invest in organizations that have momentum and are well led.”
Woodson’s involvement is decidedly hands-on. He regularly visits alumni groups across the nation and has even traveled as far as Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul to meet potential donors.
Telling Our Story
Because donors give to causes they believe in, the university has benefited from the work of virtually every faculty member and researcher across campus – and from strategic efforts to promote their accomplishments.
Media coverage of NC State research jumped 50 percent in 2012, and included articles in some of the nation’s leading news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Reuters and Scientific American. Web traffic and social media activity have also increased sharply in recent years.
More than anything, the rising numbers are a reflection of how strongly alumni and other supporters connect with the university.
“I have such a sense of gratitude for the NC State community,” Kessler says. “They’ve come together to support us in a time when many other organizations have not been growing. People are responding not just to the challenges, but to the opportunities to make NC State an even better university.”