KSU plans ‘aggressive’ fundraising

Ben Wolford

VP wants to target students,

Kent State will target more potential donors, including students, as part of a goal to increase fundraising revenue by 50 percent during the next four to five years.

Gene Finn, vice president for institutional advancement, called that goal “extremely aggressive,” but not impossible.

“Setting goals for fundraising is difficult in these times,” he said. “But we do know we have the capacity to increase our fundraising significantly.”

Kent State raised a record $28.5 million in 2008, up $1.6 million from the year before.

That growing trend will continue as the department works to cultivate donors before they’re alumni, Finn said.

Campaign for Change is one such effort that began last year. It encourages students to donate money to create a fund for endowed scholarships.

Albert Melfo, director of Annual Giving, said the idea is to make students think about philanthropy before they graduate and disappear.

“(Students) go out into the world and really don’t hear anything from Kent State for a decade, and then all of a sudden we call them and want their money,” Melfo said. “The purpose of this effort is to prevent that disconnect.”

But most graduates already got away, and now Finn’s department is playing catch up.

They’ve hired eight new employees, some of whom are in charge of reaching out to nationally scattered alumni.

“We’ve hired a couple of individuals recently that are going to be focusing on different geographic areas of the United States where we have large concentrations of alumni,” said Steve Sokany, associate vice president for Institutional Advancement.

They will call alumni from areas such as New York City or Florida to laud Kent State’s latest achievements, trying to get them reconnected.Seven percent of Kent State alumni donate to the university, a low number, Finn said.

“One of the goals of the campaign is to increase that percentage,” he said.

But he realizes convincing people to give up their money is no easy task.

“There are a lot of factors that go into that,” he said. “It’s not just our efforts, it’s the efforts of University Relations, it’s the economy, it’s the athletic teams.

“If we have a winning football season and basketball season, I guarantee that will help with the participation rate.”

President Lester Lefton calls any gain a success.

“If (Finn) raises 10 percent more, I’ll be happy,” he said. “We are looking for sustained, steady growth in our fundraising efforts.”

At the University of Akron, they raised $41 million in fiscal year 2008. Ohio University raised $27 million in the same year.

Stanford University raised $832.3 million in 2007, the highest of any U.S. institution, according to a report by the Council for Aid to Education.

“We recognize that we need to be beefing up our operation here to meet the needs of the students and faculty,” Finn said.

Contact administration reporter Ben Wolford at [email protected]