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Six Innovative Special Events and Programs

In fall of 2000, the League for Innovation learned from its Alliance member colleges that Special Events were among the top three most effective methods for fundraising. In 1999 the Council for Resource Development (CRD) conducted a survey of its 1,200 members to profile community college resource development which revealed that foundation staff spent more time on Special Events than any other activity. Clearly, targeted fundraising events are vital to advancement success and most community colleges conduct them, but they don't always earn the respect or results desired. Special fundraising events vary greatly in scope and outcomes, but the best are distinctive to the community, appropriate to the college culture, and guaranteed to succeed in raising funds.

Following are six innovative Special Events hosted recently representing the creative talents and endless energy of community college fund raisers in North America that achieved the anticipated results, and more.

Be a Star Planetarium Campaign
PhotoDelta College, Michigan 
In 1997 Delta College opened a high-tech Planetarium and Learning Center, built with an $8.7 million grant from NASA. From all seats, visitors enjoy several interactive programming options and an array of space scenes on the 50-foot domed screen. The facility also includes eight classrooms, a computer lab, and an interactive distance learning classroom. The Delta College Foundation offered a special opportunity for area residents and donors to "Be a Star" by sponsoring one of 621 stars located in their respective  constellations and embedded in the terrazzo floor in the Planetarium lobby. 

Three sizes of stars are available for tax-deductible donations of $1,500, $2,000, and $2,500. and new ways of using the center's technology for educational experiences. Each year over 30,000 students and adults visit the Planetarium; to date 125 of the stars have been purchased, raising a portion of the more than $360,000 currently in the planetarium endowment. For additional information about this event contact Karen MacArthur Executive Director, Delta College Foundation.

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Community Gift of Lights 1999 - 2000
Hawkeye Community College, Iowa 
This project has been discontinued.

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Off the Record at JCCC
Johnson County Community College, Kansas
 "Beyond Bounds" is a biennial fund raiser at Johnson County Community College's distinguished Gallery of Art in which invited artists, both internationally known and emerging, are asked to transform into a work of art an object the college gallery sends them. Examples of past objects include silk scarves, wooden boxes, picture frames, and Japanese rice paper. The artworks are then sold, for as much as $11,000 each, in silent and live auctions at a gala attended by major contemporary art collectors and a wide field of interested patrons. On two occasions, a major patron has provided auctioneers from internationally renowned Phillips Auction House and Christie's.

PhotoThe most recent event, "Beyond Bounds: Off the Record!", featured vinyl, long-playing (LP) record albums newly manufactured with grooves but no audio. Each artist was sent a selection of pristine colors from which to work: translucent blue and red, opaque white, shimmering clear and deepest black. More than 120 artists participated, and the evening was a spectacular success, with a Mediterranean buffet, a deejay providing techno and world music, and a dramatic lighting display in the Carlsen Center atrium. Internationally known artists who participated included Polly Apfelbaum, Eric Fischl, Antony Gormley, Mary Heilmann, Fabian Marcaccio, Dennis Oppenheim, Judith Shea, and Betty Woodman. Costs were estimated at $12,000, and revenues, from ticket sales, underwriting, and item sales, amounted to $55,500. Proceeds from the event support programming, exhibitions, lectures, and the gallery endowment, and further the college's fine art collection. Significant works by Christopher Brown and Elizabeth Murray, focal points of the collection, have been purchased with the nearly one quarter-million dollars earned through this event. Visit JCCC's Gallery of Art. For further information about this special event, contact Joe Sopcich, Director, Johnson County Community College Foundation.

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Mamma Mia!! That's One Successful Event!
Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology, Ontario, Canada
When Seneca College wanted to increase alumni membership and generate new monies for its Alumni Scholarship Campaign, it looked to the strengths of its community and the interests of the targeted age group. In May 2000, after determining that 80 percent of Seneca alumni association members lived within a 150-mile radius of the world-famous theatre district in downtown Toronto, Seneca conducted a cost-effective and profitable special event, Seneca College Night at the Royal Alexandra Theatre featuring Mamma Mia!! Every seat in the theater was purchased for a performance of Mamma Mia!! prior to opening night. Special personalized tickets purchased at a group rate were sold at face value through the alumni office. Mamma Mia! - image of ticket This alumni event was promoted through the alumni magazine, personal e-mail, the Alumni website, the student federation newsletter, special mailings from the alumni president to all retirees of the college and to the Board of Governors, an on-campus poster blitz, and by word of mouth. All 1,326 tickets were sold 10 days prior to the performance for a revenue of $10,000 (Canadian), which was matched by government funds leading to a total of $20,000 to support the alumni scholarship campaign. In addition, a cocktail party was held in the theatre the night of the event featuring cast members and invited guests, resulting in further awareness and cultivation of the college and its alumni association in the community. Theater One guest donated an unsolicited $500 cheque on the night of the event. Seneca College is considering scheduling a similar event every other year, perhaps next time in the Toronto Skydome! For additional information contact Mary-Joe Guidi, Past President, Seneca College Alumni Association.


Ag Maize: Corny, Amaizing, and True!
Kirkwood Community College, Iowa 
While this fundraiser was intended to fund scholarships for deserving agriculture students, this event did even more. As part of Cedar Rapids' 160th Birthday Celebration, Kirkwood Community College, in collaboration with the Cedar Rapids Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and other community members, created a distinctive corn maze in thCrop Circlese shape of the city's Tree of Five Seasons logo. This was a joint project between the college, Citizens were invited to stroll through a 10-acre living, growing puzzle maze in a cornfield on the Kirkwood campus. To create the maze, a team of farm technicians used a satellite-based location program to identify precise locations of the cornless maze pattern. Volunteers then went into the fields with lawn mowers to cut patterns in the young corn stalks to form the pathways and cul-de-sacs of the maze. The remaining corn plants grew to over eight feet high, forming the maze itself. Labor, seed, security, and promotional services were all donated, and the maze enjoyed a great deal of media attention and support via radio, television, and print exposure. A modest admission fee and proceeds from refreshments were used to fund scholarships for deserving Kirkwood agriculture students; however, when incidental costs were calculated, the project was not profitable. Nevertheless, the activity was educational to the Ag Science students who planted and cultivated the field, was illustrative of many of the modern agricultural technologies taught at Kirkwood, and brought over 7,000 visitors to the campus. More importantly, it brought new agriculture and tourism partners to the college that have resulted in valuable relationships leading to development of a new, state-of-the-art equestrian facility and a new classroom and laboratory facility in the Ag Science complex. The college learned valuable lessons, made many new friends, and set the stage for highly promising college projects for the future. For additional information, contact Cheryle Mitvalsky, Executive Director, Kirkwood Community College Foundation.

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Eclectic Staff Goods and Services on the Auction Block
Monroe Community College, New York 
 At Monroe Community College, a fundraising auction was not just another auction. In March 2000, the MCC Foundation hosted the 2nd annual Gold Star Gala, which featured the first-ever faculty and staff auction. The event raised more than $20,000 for scholarship assistance, faculty enrichment programs, educationalMonroe Community College logo programs, and seed money for innovative programs. More than 175 guests enjoyed something totally different on the Rochester, New York, fundraising circuit. The auction-with live, silent, and online bidding-featured exceptional goods and services donated exclusively by the college faculty and staff. Guests bid on services reflecting the faculty's professional skills such as personal computer and network consulting, public speaking and public relations consulting, and a geological dig, and personal interests, such as fly fishing instruction (by the college president!) and preparing specialty foods (e.g., New York-style cheesecakes, Stars Texas barbecue, Chinese cuisine, and soul food dinners). By donating their time and professional expertise, more than 60 staff and faculty members demonstrated their pride in and support for the college to both colleagues and the community. For additional details, contact Brenda Babitz, President, Monroe Community College Foundation.


The League's Advancement welcomes news of other successful, innovative fundraising Special Events for this catalog of fundraising happy endings. Submit details to Gerardo E. de los Santos.

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