The Rebuilding of an Advancement Program

Converse College (a Master’s University) is a delightful institution tucked away in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Established as a women’s college in the late 1800s, it has seen significant growth and change from its original 168 students and 16 faculty. Today, it boasts undergraduate enrollment of 820+ women, and a coed graduate population of well over 500. The college is nationally ranked (#7 as a regional “Best Value School” by US News), and was one of the first institutions this century to press the “tuition reset” button, lowering tuition by 40%.

However, in order to reduce costs while focusing on academics, focus and financing for advancement activities were curtailed. In 2012, the Institutional Advancement Office staff totaled 15 positions under a Vice President – 2 in Advancement Services; 6 in Alumnae and Donor Relations; and 6 in Development.

By late 2016, when Alexander Haas was invited to come in, thanks to the leadership of the very new President, Krista Newkirk, Institutional Advancement had seen a name change that did not resonate with staff or alumnae, and the core areas mentioned above had been reduced in headcount to 11 positions – only 5 of which were filled (no VP, no head of Alumnae Relations, no head of Advancement Services, no operations manager, and minus 2 senior fundraisers).

The new President, as well as their strong Interim Vice President for Philanthropy, knew it was time for a makeover and called on Alexander Haas to conduct a Development Assessment to help define and guide change, revamp the organizational structure, assist with creation of new position descriptions, and help describe and justify positions within a newly reconstituted division of Institutional Advancement.

We succeeded – And all in just under 1 year!

  • The Institutional Advancement (IA) division was reborn, both through a name change back to a more recognizable term, and with a new and invigorated purpose
  • One unit that had been previously added to the division as part of a consolidation and cost savings effort was realigned with a more appropriate division
  • A new position description for the Vice President of IA was created and successfully recruited for
  • Position descriptions for 2 senior fundraising positions were developed and successfully recruited for
  • Positions for Alumnae and Advisory Boards as well as Donor Relations were refined and filled
  • The IA division swelled from a total of 5 physically present staff members, to a fully staffed division
  • Fundraising productivity goals for the current fiscal year (FY18) – the first year with a new VP and completely restructured IA division – are double actual productivity for FY17. There is little doubt that the goal this year will not only be achieved, but exceeded

We acknowledge that the potential for Converse College has only begun to be tapped. However, with sound and dedicated leadership, a full complement of IA staff with newly minted position descriptions, and alumnae eager to be engaged and involved, and a little bit of help from Alexander Haas, the future is incredibly bright. As President Newkirk puts it, “IA has really done a fantastic job of implementing all of your recommendations. I can barely keep up with them! Thank you for putting us on the right path.