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The Little Engine That Could

I think I can stylized
Centre College in Danville KY is indeed a little engine but with a lot of horsepower. With total enrollment of 1325 students, this small and highly regarded liberal arts college uses what it has to gain standing among the giants in higher education.

My June 23rd and July 7th GivingTake posts, 7 & 8 Figure Gifts – Why Some Get Them and Other’s Don’t and Taking it to the Next Level addressed a framework for the conditions needed to kick things up a few performance levels and to attract magnificent gifts. Centre College is the poster organization for success in this area. You have no doubt learned of the recent $250 million gift just received by the college from the A. Eugene Brockman Charitable Trust representing the largest outright gift ever to a liberal arts college.

This gift represents an alignment between the vision of the college and of the donor. The Trust’s vision for the gift is to “enable Centre to attract highly qualified students who become ‘job creators’ as they devote entrepreneurial thinking to society’s needs, thereby stimulating economic growth.” Through his son’s experience at Centre, Mr. Brockman knew that the college was equipped to fulfill this vision.

While this gift is the lead gift for a $500 million campaign, the college has been working on the nuts and bolts of advancement for many years. In 2010, the college raised $25.4 million representing 42% of all other college revenues. Their alumni giving is ranked #1 among all colleges and universities in the South and #14 nationally according to Forbes. They recently bolstered this position through a “One Million Reasons Challenge” where an anonymous donor matched three-to-one for all new and increased alumni giving during the challenge period. The challenge met with rapid success.

I happen to have two family friends who are graduates of Centre College (past 10 years), and it is apparent that the college uses its small size as an asset, and gains strength and instills pride in its supporters for what it can accomplish in the land of the giants.

Your takes:

1. Find ways for your organization to embrace its assets and strength to turn them into visionary appeals.

2. Organizations with a small “foot print” can still work to address national and global challenges and opportunities.

3. Remember that whatever your organization size, there is no gift too large or too small, because every gift has its significance.

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  1. Pingback:Are Small Colleges a Safe Philanthropic Bet? | Copley Raff

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