When you are in the middle of a $400-million-dollar comprehensive campaign, as is Tracy Barlok at The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA, you don’t have a lot of spare time. So we were grateful when Tracy granted us a few moments to answer our questions about what is trending among donors right now, the competition for donors’ dollars, diversity in the donor pool, and other insights.
“In our current campaign, we have seen a significant increase in 7+ figure gifts, in large part because of a perception of long-overdue investment in facilities that are now under construction. We believe the tangible “gratification” is an important factor. And we’ve been able to create leverage based on a trustee mandate that we must have 2/3 of the project cost in gifts or commitments before we can break ground. Immediate impact – in helping a project come to fruition – or in funding a current program seems to be a trend for us. Given our priorities, even donors throughout our gift pyramid are more likely to support a current program with “out-right” dollars rather than investing in the endowment. I suspect that might change in the future, but with 4 new facilities in the campaign plan, our focus has to include gifts to bricks and mortar.”
“As to who we are competing with, our youngest donors are also supporting causes around social justice and disaster relief, things like that. We continue to hear about the rising cost of higher education and debt—those realities continue to be a big concern for graduates of the last decade or so.”
“Diversity among donors is increasing because our undergraduate population is more diverse. Our alumni base reflects that. And we are finding that targeted fundraising efforts around affinity groups like LGBTQ alumni or members of the Black Student Union are gaining traction.”
Tracy’s parting insight/advice:
“Taking advantage of momentum is critical. Whether it is a winning athletic team, an increase in applications, a significant new gift, a major faculty or student accomplishment—figuring out how to communicate and instill wide spread pride is key. Second, I would say maintaining focus on the basics—and for us it is a really successful annual fund—has been imperative to our success. We continue to pour significant resources and time into this program area because we know we are building important habits and it is how most of our alumni will participate in the campaign. This is also where we recruit and train the vast majority of our volunteers, even our Trustees.”
Thanks Tracy! And we wish you great success with the campaign!
Tracy W. Barlok is Vice President for Advancement at The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA.