On Tuesday I had the chance to speak to a graduate class in educational leadership over Zoom. In the course of the discussion, the instructor, Mike Sparrow, asked for ideas for research for folks interested in getting their doctorates in community college leadership.
I quickly landed on fundraising.
Community colleges, as a sector, really haven’t been as active or present in courting philanthropy as their four-year counterparts. As funding gets tougher, the consequences of that absence become clearer.
I’ve heard the myth that people who went to both community college and subsequent institutions will only give to the last place they attended. According to research by Lisa Skari, now the president of Mt. Hood Community College in Oregon, the myth simply isn’t true. The larger issue is that much of the time, community college alumni haven’t been asked.
Which raises the question of the best way to ask.
Community colleges have some obstacles unique to themselves. Most of them are relatively young, only achieving substantial numbers of graduates by the 1970s. They often cater to low-income students who may not feel like they’re in a position to give very much for a long time. The head start (and decades or centuries of compound interest on endowments) of some of the four-years is hard to replicate. And high-profile sports typically aren’t part of the scene here, which limits outreach to certain kinds of alums.
But community colleges should also have a sort of home-field advantage. More so than in other sectors, community college alumni tend to stay local. That should make certain kinds of outreach easier.
So, in the spirit of helping jump-start some potential research by some interested students, I turn to my wise and worldly readers. What innovative forms of fundraising have you seen a community college adopt? Is there anything you’d suggest?