In the buildings of Paul Quinn College, there is a familiar “click-clack” of tiny feet. With a beaming smile, Celia “Cici” Soto approaches her fellow Quinnites, making appeals for the “Got a Penny” fundraising drive for the Latino Student Association, also called LSA. Thoroughly, the sophomore Accounting major maps out to each prospective donor the purpose of the drive and how the funds raised will be distributed. Pointing at a sheet with a table full of information, she guides each person along, “Forty-five percent will go to Paul Quinn, 40 percent goes to the LSA scholarship fund, ten percent will go to the LSA events budget, and five percent goes toward expenses for our rewards.” The goal of the drive is to raise one million pennies, or $10,000, by April 26, 2013.
Instead of walking away during her pitch, a few of her fellow students, faculty, staff, and administrators have gotten engaged. In fact, they have become competitive. Among the rewards up for grabs are movie tickets, a restaurant gift card, and a Wal-Mart gift card. For the donor who gives the one millionth penny, there is a surprise. Eddie Vazquez, a fellow LSA member, matched a $5 gift one day. What sent the competing donors into a tailspin was a gift of $20 made by Michael Sorrell, the president of the College. Cleverly, Soto bragged about the gift during each subsequent “ask” that day. Soto keeps track of both the amount of each donation and how much each person donates.
Soto is an example of a group of students who are excited about fundraising. Thanks to Paul Quinn’s Center for Fundraising and Philanthropy, students see fundraising from a different perspective. Instead of viewing fundraising as begging for money, the team treats fundraising as a commitment to building better communities, namely the one in which they currently exist—Paul Quinn College.
“The way (LSA’s) campaign is structured is very thoughtful and strategic,” says Halima Leak, executive director of the Center for Fundraising and Philanthropy. “It takes something that that people perceive as having a small value, such as a penny, and it really brings to mind the power of a community effort.” Leak also fondly reflects on how well her staff responded to their roles in their first few meetings.
The Center houses several operations. One of its primary purposes is to serve as a professional development training center for fundraising professionals. It also serves as the engine for the College’s academic program in Fundraising and Philanthropy. The Center is also home to the College’s chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, or AFP, while also raising money and doing alumni relations for the College. Leak has a student staff that she has been training since her arrival to Paul Quinn in October 2012.
The staff is broken into three teams. The alumni relations team engages both Paul Quinn and Bishop College graduates while creating events and programs. The development and communications team assists with fundraising for the College, including grant research. The data management team tracks data and helps manage a donor management system designed best cultivate donors.
Cameron Turner, a transfer student from Louisiana, gets excited about her job. A part of the development and communications team, Turner’s head stays buried in her computer monitor a majority of her time in the office. “This is all I do,” she says as she peruses a web site. “I just look for grants.” It is hardly drudgery for Turner. Suddenly, she sees something for which the College could qualify and she gleefully calls for Leak. The two read over the grant information and Turner takes copious notes to pursue the grant.
One of the rising stars of the team is Anita Crethers. Once homeless, Crethers is an energetic junior Accounting major who is president of the AFP chapter and was tapped to attend the AFP 2013 International Conference on Fundraising in San Diego. One of the most beloved students on campus, Crethers penned a commentary about the role philanthropy has played in her life. So moved was the AFP community by the piece that the Dallas chapter used it in one of their fundraising appeals and the national organization is considering using it in their newsletter. Learning about both fundraising and philanthropy has introduced her to a new life. "I can't wait to go to San Diego. I've never even been on a plane but I'm ready to go!" says Crethers with her signature hearty, resonant laugh.
As excited as Leak and the administration are about being the only HBCU in America with the Center as well as the academic program, some wonder how Paul Quinn can successfully pitch Fundraising and Philanthropy to traditional high school students. Leak says that she attracts students by asking them what things move them. After learning about the causes they care most about, she explains to them how they can make a difference in those causes through fundraising. Leak closes the deal by dangling the most attractive carrot—fundraising as a high-demand field which could command compensation. As she speaks of students' ability to affect change, Leak recalls Soto humorously belting out a proposed charge to her fellow Quinnites in one meeting, "If you want change, give us change!"
In the meantime, Soto continues her drive for pennies. She combines lessons learned from the Center with her internship at KIPP Dallas-Fort Worth and time with AFP professionals in addition to articles she has read in the Chronicle of Philanthropy. A healthy dose of persistence plays a part in Soto’s efforts, as well. Gleefully she declares, “Every time (students) see me, they associate pennies with me. So now they give!”
By Eddie Francis, Director of Communications
Pictures: (Top) Cici Soto works in the Center for Fundraising and Philanthropy and (bottom) Halima Leak (standing) looks over a grant with Cameron Turner
|< Prev||Next >|