January 21, 2009
VSU's President Focused on Enhancing Fund-raising Efforts
VALDOSTA - President Patrick J. Schloss has identified a course of action for Valdosta State University that focuses on connecting with alumni and making a case for the importance of philanthropy in enhancing an already outstanding institution.
“Connecting with Valdosta State’s alumni and friends and cultivating personal relationships are critical to the university’s success,” Schloss said. “We want people to know that they are investing in the lives of students. We want business and industry to know that we are the ‘go to’ organization when needs exist for highly specialized and skilled relationships. With the support of our alumni and friends, Valdosta State and the community of Valdosta can be the catalyst for educational, social and commercial development.”
To date, President Schloss has hosted more than 60 dinners with community leaders, faculty and students. The dinners included conversations regarding the university’s image and the prospects for additional growth through philanthropic activities.
Schloss summarizes these discussions by saying, “There is clear evidence of Valdosta State being joined by South Georgia Medical Center and Moody Air Force Base as crown jewels in the region. The people of South Georgia love this institution. What may not be as well established is the importance of philanthropy in moving Valdosta State to the next tier of schools - schools that have broad based name recognition across the country.”
Extending insights gained from local dinners, Schloss has initiated meetings with alumni and stakeholders who reside outside of this region. A 10-city state tour began last week that allows Schloss an opportunity to cultivate relationships and convey the importance of corporate and alumni gifts to friends from Atlanta to Brunswick.
The University Foundation, under the leadership of John Crawford, vice president for University Advancement, has considered other activities that connect the university to its stakeholders.
“It is important to remember the traditions that many have come to associate with VSU, while at the same time developing new traditions for future generations,” Crawford said. “Homecoming was expanded this year to include more Greek activities and events for alumni of all ages. Commencement was refined to focus attention on students and their families and included a reception sponsored by the VSU Alumni Association. A television series was created for airing on the VSU cable station that provides a look inside the programs that make Valdosta State unique.”
Crawford is joined by Dr. Maureen Schloss and Kay Jennett in creating “Blazin’ Hot Night.” The black tie dinner and auction gala will become an annual event and is expected to develop into one of this community’s premier social events.
Upon his arrival in August 2008, Schloss began working with the campus community to identify projects and programs that are central to the mission of the university but not adequately funded through state appropriations or tuition revenue. The evolving list includes increasing the scholarship endowment used to attract the best and brightest students, and acquiring service and research tools that connect faculty expertise with community needs.
“Higher education has a rich tradition of community support through applied research and service from uniquely talented faculty. Whether commercialization of pasteurization in the early 1900s, or the invention and marketing of Gatorade late in the 20th Century, universities have been on the forefront of social and technical change,” Schloss said.
Schloss emphasized, “Valdosta State will have an expanding role because of its commitment as a comprehensive university and its aspiration to become a student-centered research institution. In the absence of appropriated dollars, extramural support and private gifts will make this work possible. Gifts that support these developments will be returned through growth in the Valdosta economy.”
Increasing the level of alumni and corporate giving is central to elevating the status of the institution. According to Crawford, VSU’s current alumni giving rate is 4 percent, while nationally the alumni giving rate at comparable institutions is between 10-20 percent. Extramural support for research and service activities is in the bottom quartile of schools of similar size and mission.
“Every student who has graduated from Valdosta State and every person who is a part of this university has benefitted from the generosity of donors,” Crawford said. “To our alumni, we will stress the importance of returning to the institution what was so generously given during their academic career. It is important that we increase private and corporate giving so we can better leverage private dollars against state appropriations.”
Crawford further stated, “State funding for higher education has not kept pace with increases in the number of students who want and deserve a college education; and virtually all of our current private/public partnerships have been funded by student fees. Valdosta State’s fees rank at the top of the state and our tuition and fees are not sufficient to provide the tools needed for us to develop and promote commercial enterprise.”
Schloss is passionate in telling Valdosta State University’s story. “We must capture the imagination of our alumni and friends. We must cultivate an understanding of Valdosta State as a premier comprehensive institution. We must make the case that to rise to the top of the ranks requires the support of alumni, friends and corporations.”