Forum focuses on fiscal health

New fundraising and budget strategies to stave off potential future economic challenges dominate end-of-year discussion

DeAnna Carlson Zink

UND Alumni Association & Foundation CEO DeAnna Carlson Zink is spearheading an effort to evaluate and refine the effectiveness and impact of alumni engagement activities as part of the new One UND Strategic Plan implementation process. Image courtesy of Sam Melquist.

UND Alumni Association & Foundation (AA&F) CEO DeAnna Carlson Zink arrived for the final installment of the fall Provost Fora decked out in a signature hue of Kelly green.

Along with her typical UND pride, she was radiating that holiday feeling.

“I thought this afternoon we could start off with the chorus of ‘Jingle Bells’ or something to get into the spirit,” she said to the smiles of the Dec. 13 audience gathered in the Education Building.

Carlson Zink, who serves as captain of One UND Strategic Plan Goal No. 7 (attract support for the University), reminded those in the room that growing the alumni and donor participation rate by 10 percent – the team’s metric of success – will be a University-wide effort.

“This was a great opportunity for us to sit across the table in collaboration with our University partners – those who are in the colleges doing the work,” she said. “How is this working, and how are we moving forward together? We have ideas, but does this work for you in your college as a VP, as a dean, as a college fundraiser or as a faculty member?”

Goal of giving

To see the yield of that teamwork, the Goal No. 7 team will carry out several action items. Carlson Zink dove into some of the tasks on which her group is already progressing.

The first step is “evaluating and refining the effectiveness and impact of alumni activities.” Zink said that although Goal No. 7 is about dollars on the surface, it all starts with getting students engaged and involved in their University – and keeping the fire in that engagement.

She noted a statistic that in some student and young alumni engagement programs, in which students are asked to donate $5 a year, beginning in their last two years on campus, 80 percent continue to give throughout their lives.

“It’s not four years at the University of North Dakota – it’s forever with the University of North Dakota,” Carlson Zink said, adding that the AA&F recently retooled a vacated position to focus on student and young alumni engagement, working with students now and 20 years into the future.

A second, increasingly important action item is creating a robust crowdfunding environment. The AA&F is working on more distinct policies and processes for its own Act fundraising platform, and has spoken with many academic groups about how to use it successfully.

“If it’s a student group or a certain initiative, it has to be led by those within the colleges and those who are going to benefit the most,” Carlson Zink explained.  “Use your social media networks and your relationships to bring that to fruition.”

Goal No. 7’s sixth action item focuses on more cohesive branding and communication between AA&F, UND and its alumni and donors. The implementation team’s marketing committee is collaborating with all areas of campus to ensure consistent messaging, and the latest edition of the Alumni Review was dedicated to the new UND branding effort.

The team also is examining better ways to recognize participation and years of giving. At one recent AA&F event, every donor nametag listed total years of giving – acting as both a thank you and a spark for further conversation.

Carlson Zink wrapped with a call to action.

“How can you help?” she posed. “First of all, by doing what you’re doing – being fantastic faculty, being fantastic staff, doing the research. But then, share your stories. Help us tell that story more. That gets your donors, your alumni and businesses excited.”

Budget bearings

Tom DiLorenzo

UND Provost Tom DiLorenzo

UND Provost Tom DiLorenzo took the floor next, recalling the first Provost Forum of the semester – and how much ground had been covered over the past four months.

“This has been an amazingly busy semester,” he said, his smile indicating that the campus-wide hustle and bustle wasn’t always a bad thing.

DiLorenzo’s first reflection point was the budget situation, which he deemed in “stable condition” during his first September forum. He said the University remained stable for now, but conversations are ongoing – in all areas – about how to plan long-term for another potential dip in funding.

UND’s Senate Budget Committee has discussed setting aside 5 percent of the budget for reserves.

“Why would we do that? So that if we do have a downturn, we have the funds to take care of it,” DiLorenzo said.

The Provost indicated that the main focus of the University [the fall] semester was growth, and how the rollout of the Strategic Plan will drive that growth. He thanked goal captains and project managers for their service.

“You’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty,” he said.

Looking ahead

The institution’s budget planners are already gearing up for the next legislative session, developing strategies to best present UND’s assets and needs to the state. DiLorenzo reminded the crowd that revenue from “oil and soil” is still down, so they must proceed with caution.

“We enter the next legislative session as we do every legislative session – looking a bit at the past, as well as where we want to go in the future,” he said.

DiLorenzo noted that the budget office continues to ask for data from all areas of campus, using the incentive-based MIRA model as a tool to help with long-term, data-informed budget decisions.

With such a multifaceted budget process at hand, DiLorenzo urged faculty and staff to connect with the Senate Budget Committee.

“That body is there for you to wrestle with questions you would like addressed,” he said.