Fundraising is critical at TNCC, president says

Published: October 15, 2009

Daily Press

Friend-raising leads to fundraising, and Thomas Nelson Community College officials are mounting a big effort for both.

Raising money hasn’t always been a big part of the world of academia, but it’s essential there these days, says according to TNCC President Alvin Schexnider. This fall he has emphasized that as state budget cuts continue, the college will have to find ways to generate private donations.

One year into his presidential term and with two to go, Schexnider has brought his background in four-year schools to a community college setting.

“Higher education is facing some challenging times,” Schexnider said. “We’re facing some very difficult years ahead and I think the long-term prospect is not bright.”

His focus is on building a solid organization that will hold up in the future. An on-campus car show benefit this past summer and fall speakers’ breakfast series this fall were his first steps toward “friend raising,” as he calls it.

Before even getting to fundraising, Schexnider said college officials have to elevate TNCC’s visibility. This involves doing a better job of telling their story and developing a brand.

“So there are steps that we need to take before we get to the point of implementing strategies to raise more money,” Schexnider said. “But we just can’t sit on our hands in the meantime. We’re always trying to do something.

“We recognize now that the economy is not in our favor. But even as we recognize that, we also know that there are things that we have to do irrespective of that.”

TNCC has a foundation with its own board, and an endowment. Officials are hoping the new Historic Triangle campus that opened this fall will open up donation opportunities in that region.

Alumni are the main draw for contributions to four-year institutions. But the problem for community colleges is that a graduate who goes on to four-year schools tends to claim that last place as their alma mater.

“I think we’re looking at ways to be strategic in our thinking about cultivating alumni and how alumni can support the college going forward,” he said. “I think it’s a much tougher job for us; I think it can be done.”

Today’s information-saturated world has forced colleges to address marketing and branding, which he said used to be “anathema” to higher education.

“The landscape has changed and so we have to change with it, which is very, very difficult for institutions of higher learning, in my experience,” Schexnider said.

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