Strategic Plan III

Securing the Future: The Challenge of Wealth

While thus acknowledging the importance of human contribution and wise financial management, SP  III asserts one additional truth. Reaching our goals—to enhance the value of the Dickinson experience for our students and to maintain our position in a new peer group of leading colleges—will rest upon our ability to build the college’s wealth. This can only be accomplished through a substantial increase in giving from alumni, friends, foundations, corporations and the government. The recession and economic uncertainty make this an unsettled time for national liberal arts colleges and work against our goal of attracting wealth. So, too, does Dickinson’s long history of modest success in regard to philanthropy. Our giving levels—both in terms of participation and size of gift—have consistently lagged behind those of our current elite peer group. This is particularly troubling because size of endowment and deeply rooted cultures of philanthropy have long driven institutions’ prestige.

Nonetheless, we have reasons for optimism. In defiance of the current economic downturn, we are completing our capital campaign on schedule. Moreover, it differs from prior Dickinson fund-raising efforts not only in its magnitude but also in its clear priorities, effective organization and—critically—attention to building pipelines for future giving. Despite economic turmoil, we have radically increased the college’s endowment and we are steadily attracting more donors. In the arena of foundation support, we have continued a tradition of success, garnering grants from such prestigious foundations as Luce, Mellon and Sherman Fairchild and from government agencies including NSF and NASA. Also, the very economic challenges of the current period offer an opportunity for an entrepreneurial liberal-arts college on the move to reposition in the marketplace and in regard to giving. Dickinson is uniquely set in momentum, profile and leadership to seize of this opportunity. We must devote resources to keep the momentum going.

Strategic Goal A:  Our goals for philanthropy cannot be met without a dynamic alumni relations program. As described elsewhere in SP III, we will move forward in building  a 21st-century alumni relations program that meets alumni needs with elements tailored to demographic interests (young alumni, 22-35 vs. 44-65, etc.), affinity connections (academic and professional) and traditional affiliations (class years). While recognizing the multifaceted purposes of such an alumni relations program, we must be sure that it is appropriately integrated into fund-raising activities. 

Objective 1.  We need to heighten our engagement with young alumni, inculcating a strong, ongoing sense of responsibility for the college and for future generations of Dickinsonians. This must include an appreciation of the ways in which the college’s ongoing success has personal value for each alum. Key to this effort is strengthening the bridge between the undergraduate experience and the first five years after graduation.

Objective 2.  We can build upon high-level engagement strategies such as Dickinson 2025, the President’s Summit, or the Sustainability Symposium to connect with promising prospects for our philanthropic efforts.

Objective 3.  We need to develop a dynamic and effective volunteer management structure that incorporates Dickinson Works, Dickinson Admissions volunteers, class agents and regional cabinets.  Overall, we must create more short-term and meaningful volunteer opportunities. 

Objective 4.  In regard to all objectives, but especially those that aim at broadening our donor and volunteer base, we need to actively, innovatively apply networking and data gathering technology.

Strategic Goal B:  The college must continue on its quest for private support beyond the expectations any of us had just seven years ago when the current campaign was launched. As we turn the corner on $150 million, the board of trustees has encouraged the college to move forward with another significant fundraising initiative. Goals of this initiative will reflect priorities identified in SP III. 

Strategic Goal C:  Beyond the specific task of addressing a new capital campaign, we need to expand the overall foundation of philanthropic support for Dickinson. In essence, we need to translate our current decade of momentum into the type of permanent, pervasive culture of giving that characterizes the best endowed and most prestigious colleges. Our endowment goal for 2015 is $400 million, based on $35 million of new gifts and investment growth. 

Objective 1.  We need to continue to expand the college’s donor base, for example, by targeting growth in the annual fund from $4 million to $6 million by 2016.

Objective 2.  While widening the donor base, we must also focus on large gifts that have major and even transformational impact on individual programs and the college as a whole. Targets for SP III include: doubling major gift commitments between $25,000 and $250,000; increasing gifts to the John Dickinson Society by one third with concentration on the President’s Circle ($10,000+) through heightened marketing, a larger prospect pool, and enhanced giving options; strengthening relationships with prospects capable of gifts in excess of $500,000 and deepening the qualified pool by 50 percent; and closing five gifts in the $500,000 range from prospects that are new to this level of giving.

Objective 3.  We must solidify the planned giving program so that it provides no less than a third of cash receipts each year.

Objective 4.  We need to continue our striking record of securing philanthropic support from national private foundations that brings both new resources and institutional visibility. Such grants are particularly useful in launching innovations and in providing third-party validation to the excellence of our academic program.