First Time's a Charm
It’s not often that any capital campaign gets four $300,000 gifts simultaneously — never mind a capital campaign for a community college.
But that’s what happened when Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, Mass., ran its first-ever capital campaign.
The campaign had a goal of raising $2,250,000 in support of four initiatives:
- construction of an Early Childhood Education Center;
- renovation and expansion of the library;
- endowment-building for student scholarships; and
- funding for civic-engagement program support.
In the end, it raised more than $2,308,000 between April and December 2004 and made MWCC one of just a few Massachusetts community colleges to be successful in raising millions of dollars for capital campaigns.
“The partnership with the state has been well received by local philanthropists,” says Darlene Morrilly, executive director of MWCC Foundation Inc. “The state committed $640,000 toward the early-childhood education building and matched the private funding for endowment. It just makes good sense to people who want to make an investment in their community while securing the college’s future.”
A quick start
“Before we began any campaign activities, we hired outside fundraising counsel to help us prepare for and then conduct the capital-campaign planning/feasibility study,” Morrilly explains. “Through that process, the campaign took on a life of its own. A sense or urgency emerged, and the campaign timetable solidified.”
Morrilly adds that, within eight weeks, the college had:
- Articulated a statement of need.
- Defined the cost/goal to support the need.
- Identified a cross section of the community to be interviewed with the help of community leaders.
- Prepared the questionnaire.
- Tested the achievability of the goal with a standards-of-giving chart based on other community colleges’ successes.
- Seized the opportunity to tell its story.
- Offered confidentiality and involved community leaders and decision makers.
- Strengthened relationships between the foundation and trustee boards.
- Uncovered community ties.
- Agreed on the campaign timetable and activities.
Raising the campaign goal to finish a project is tantamount to victory, but success goes so much deeper for community colleges, whose state support on average has dwindled to less than 30 percent. MWCC currently receives only 28 percent of its operating budget from the state. The remaining 72 percent comes from student fees, government grants and contracts, and local fundraising activities.
A strong annual appeal is critically needed, and a successful capital campaign will strengthen annual donations. Through this campaign, 100 newly identified alumni became donors, which is a great effort for most community colleges, whose graduates don’t have a giving history to the college and whose records are not usually up to date.
While there are many ways to measure a campaign’s success, it boils down to these three important objectives:
- Secure the overall monetary goal with gifts of all sizes.
- Expand the volunteer base with people from both inside and outside the institution.
- Increase the donor base for the immediate and long-term future of the institution.
MWCC accomplished these goals — and secured its future — with a very simple secret: teamwork. Andrew Carnegie said it best, “Teamwork is the ability to work together toward a common vision. The ability to direct individual accomplishments towards organizational objectives. This is the fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.”