Feasibility Study shows positive results

A feasibility study done for MCCC indicates the college could raise up to $10 million in a community fund-raising campaign.

A special meeting of the MCCC Foundation Board of Directors was held on Nov. 17 to discuss the results of the feasibility study, which was conducted by the Clements Group.

The Clements Group is a consulting company that helps organizations develop sustainable growth and development plans.

The feasibility study was done to measure MCCC’s potential for success in a major gifts campaign. 

MCCC has considered building a Career Technology Center with a tentative price tag of $17 million. The state has promised $8.5 million if the college can raise matching money through a campaign.

The study also was used to learn more about the college’s perception in the community – whether residents think the college is effectively implementing its vision and serving its community.

“This college has one purpose: to better the life of everyone within its district,” Dr. Pendleton Armistead, president of the Clements Group, said.

This matches MCCC’s vision, which states:  “MCCC aspires to be our community’s first choice for higher learning.”

“This study is not an end solution, just part of a solution,” Armistead said. “While it’s a snapshot, it is still a gauge.”

Specifically, the study provided MCCC with resource information, preliminary refining of prospects, and recommendations necessary to prepare for and carry out the proposed campaign.

A total of 85 people were interviewed in the study. Twenty-five of those people were board members, and 60 were corporate, business, professional, and community leaders.

Overall, the results were positive.  Interviewees were asked questions relating to their impression of MCCC and the Foundation as well as the college’s administrators, faculty, and Board of Trustees.  They were also asked questions more specifically related to fundraising.

Based on the results, The Clements Group came up with several recommendations for MCCC.

“If you launch the major gifts campaign, it has to be organized, strategic, and timely,” Armistead said.

To initiate the campaign, they suggested starting with marketing, research, training, awareness and an internal campaign.  Then would come the external campaign, and lastly preparations to implement a comprehensive resource development/institutional advancement program.

“You need to decide: ‘Do I trust the data? Is it the right thing to do? Is the timing right,'” Armistead said.

He added that if a campaign is launched, the trustees and Foundation members must act as advisors.  He also said that MCCC’s President David Nixon would have a big responsibility.

“Where the president goes, so does the campaign,” Armistead said. “There’s a lot on your shoulders, Dr. Nixon,” Armistead said.

In the recommendations, Nixon was encouraged to appoint Suzanne Wetzel, executive director of The Foundation and director of Institutional Advancement, as full-time campaign manager and to provide her with the necessary support staff.

“Sue, there’s nobody better than you,” Armistead said.

As campaign manager, Wetzel would be in charge of organizing a detailed plan, managing volunteers, initiating the formation of various committees, executing a plan for solicitation of prospects, and developing a database on all donor prospects.

The research also showed that more than 10 foundations within Monroe County, as well as more than 60 corporations are willing to support education, giving MCCC several opportunities.

It is recommended that MCCC establish an Educational Excellence Fund, allowing the college the necessary flexibility to adapt to community-driven needs.

The study suggested that the following projects will receive broad-based support through a campaign: Career Technology Center, ACCESS: Scholarship Endowment, and Fund for Innovation.

If a major gifts campaign is launched, MCCC will have the following objectives:

• Launch the campaign with a working goal of $8 to $10 million in cash from three-to-five year pledges.  Then set a “fixed” goal after completing certain initial steps.

• Address interviewee concerns by enhancing visibility and awareness of the contributions the college makes to the area’s economic, workforce, and cultural development.

• Develop additional partnerships with persons of stature throughout the region and, in the process, strengthen the college’s donor base.

“This has to be a winning endeavor; this college doesn’t lose at anything,” Armistead said. “People love to be associated with success.”

About 25 people attended the meeting, including six of the college’s trustees and several members of the Foundation’s board of directors.

“It’s a lot to think about. There was a lot of good information,” Len Lingar, group three director of the Foundation, said.  “This is not something to be rushed.”

Herb Smith attended the meeting as well.  He has donated money for a scholarship at MCCC, known as the Joanne D. Smith Music Scholarship.

Armistead asked him about why he made such a specific donation.

“Why did you give a scholarship in music?  I bet you don’t know how to play the banjo,” Armistead said.

“My late wife loved music.” Smith said. “Her grandson is now here on a music scholarship, and he plays the baritone.”

“We used the money from her life insurance policy.”

Attendees of the meeting applauded his generosity.

“You did something that is changing someone’s life every year. Well done, sir,” Armistead said.

Armistead added that community college students are working, going to school, and raising families.

“We are their salvage,” he said. “They are in the process of changing their lives.”

Members of the college have been responsible for a significant rise in student enrollment and their dedication shows their commitment to the future of the college, Armistead said. 

No decisions have been made as to whether or not MCCC should launch a new campaign.

Attendees of the meeting were given a copy of the feasibility study results, so they could review the information.

“I would like everyone to keep this in mind. No decisions have been made on anything right now,” Board Chairman Michael Meyer said.

“I just wish you the best of luck with this. Congratulations with such a good job.” Armistead said.  “I hope that you’re satisfied with it. I hope I created a sense of opportunity. I hope I taught you something.”