Category Archives: Advancement

My experience with “locker room banter”…and how I’ve learned to shut it down.

This is not intended as a political post.  This is about my experience as a woman and how I have learned to deal with — and shut down — sexual harassment.  It so happens that the media provides some ample examples recently.  I have purposely left out the names of candidates so as to avoid alienating any reader.

Every once in a while, examples of sexual harassment make the national media.  It is interesting to see people respond to them.  Sometimes the examples caught on tape or relayed in court are so shocking that they impact our collective consciousness.  These are the times when a sea change can occur.   I think news like this is a good thing.  Why?  Because when bad behavior becomes so public, sometimes it makes real change.  We can only hope.

Anita Hill, 1991
Anita Hill, 1991

There was Anita Hill. When Clarence Thomas was a candidate for the Supreme Court, a brave woman named Anita Hill came forward to testify about how Thomas had treated her in the workplace.  It was troubling to hear her relay how Thomas had treated her. It was tame by comparison to some of the recent news caught on tape, but it was equally disgusting.  Anita Hill was very brave and told her story.  She took enormous criticism.  I can’t imagine how much courage it took for her to  take action. This was before the days of sexual harassment protections or workplace training.  I remember many people condemning her. Clarence Thomas still made it to the Supreme Court, but I think men everywhere realized that their “workplace banter” could cause offense and could be considered wrong and harassing.  Some reading this post might not have been born yet, so you should read more about her story if you have a moment.

Photo credit: Daily Beast
Photo credit: Daily Beast

High profile examples of bad behavior sometimes can teach larger lessons. Let’s hope this is one of them. I’ve had my own experiences which I’ve endured over many years, but for the first time a few years ago, I took action.

 

Like many women, this is part of life in the workforce.  A high profile person came out this week saying, “If women can’t handle sexual harassment in the workplace, they should get another job… they should go teach kindergarten”.  Sadly, it even happens in elementary schools, so there really is no relief.

Mid-1980s.  In College, I was fortunate to attend a woman’s college.  There I could focus on my academics during the day and had plenty of fun outside of class.  There were male colleges near us where we had friends and went for social occasions.  I had few bad situations; however, surrounded by a rather polite group of men,  there were usually a few “big brother” like friends who immediately set the person straight.  We (my friends and I) also traveled in packs.  We didn’t leave anyone alone anywhere and made sure when we left that all were accounted for.  We looked out for each other. I was lucky, it seems there is a worse culture in some colleges now exposing women to very harassing behavior.

Late-1980s:  When I was first out of college in the late 80s, I had frequent challenges in the workplace and just living my life.  This was before the days of legal protections and there was (and is) a culture of harassment.  I remember typing and having someone’s hands slide from my shoulders to down the front of my blouse.  Not just once, many times (even after trying to lean forward, turn myself around, ask the person to stop).  I positioned a mirror on my desk so that I could see if someone could come up behind me and I would snap to attention facing anyone who arrived.  I remember being called to an office only to find no one there and all of the windows covered (I’ll spare you what happened after that).  I remember being asked to sit a particular way while taking notes in an office so that the supervisor could “get a better view of my legs”.  And so on and so on….

Photo credit: HRMpractice.com
Photo credit: HRMpractice.com

I remember speaking to my parents about it and they made suggestions about dressing differently, not being the last one in the office, and everything they could think of to help. This was the Laura Ashley fashion period where high-neck lace blouses were actually in fashion, so there wasn’t much more I could do to dress conservatively.   Some people said to me to “not take it personally” or “this is what happens working in a ‘man’s world'” or “boys will be boys” and so on.   It wasn’t what I was wearing, I now realize, it was the mindset of the person who thought he could treat me that way.

1990s Laura Ashley fashion.
1990s Laura Ashley fashion.

At that time, there were no avenues (at least that I knew about) to make it stop.  There were no workplace trainings (as is now customary) to let me know what I did not have to tolerate and to put harassers on notice.   In some cases, I did change jobs.

1990s:  When I had my first fundraising job, I stayed with a woman in New England at a charming home on the coast.  Somewhere in the middle of the night, I realized someone was in my room.  Then, the person actually leapt onto my bed (it was pitch black) and began groping me.  I grabbed whatever I could find (an alarm clock) and started hitting him with it which made him stop.  Shaking violently to the point that I could hardly zip my suitcase or hold my keys, I left in the middle of the night and left a note for the person.  I got a note later saying, “I want to apologize to my son.  He was drunk and went into the wrong bedroom.”  Funny thing about that, he didn’t live there and knew I was staying there as he had stopped by earlier during our visit.

I began to see that some men just assumed that their attentions would be received — or didn’t care what the recipient thought.

Mid-1990s:  Working for a large association in Washington, DC as a meeting planner, I traveled often.  On one trip to Colorado, the Broadmoor, I had just returned from a work reception late and heard the sound of a key.  In walked a bank president who had attended the meeting with a big grin on his face and holding a bottle of wine and two glasses.  “I got the key from the front desk,” he exclaimed.  The assumption that I would be open to such an intrusion bothered me as much as having to deal with the situation to begin with.  I had experienced countless incidents of groping, fondling, comments over the course of that job, but never this far of an extreme.  I managed to get him out of the room (I led the way) and back to the lobby where I confided in a colleague who helped me.  I changed rooms (and now I travel with a small rubber wedge which I stick under the door in addition to closing as many latches available).

As many women faced in this situation, I worried that I would actually have some negative job repercussion for not being responsive to the harassment.  At that time, as with most women, I went about my work and remained silent.  There was no ear to listen.

The Girls Choir at the National Cathedral (I am honored to have raised the gift that created the girls choir); and grateful that they protected me in a time of need.
The Girls Choir at the National Cathedral (I am honored to have raised the gift that created the girls choir); and grateful that they protected me in a time of need.

Late-1990s:  When I was six months pregnant with my second child working at the National Cathedral, I had a particularly egregious situation with a supervisor who had scheduled my performance review (conveniently late in the day after most people had left).  After shutting the door and placing himself between me and the exit, he physically approached me and pushed me down onto a sofa – and then onto the floor – and started kissing me.   I was so horrified that I couldn’t even move initially, but managed to push him onto the ground and bolt for the door.  He tried coming after me and actually grabbed a hold of a cardigan sweater I was wearing that I recall stretched so much that it never regained its shape.   In that case, I confided in one of the priests who was a friend of mine. Within hours the leader of the Cathedral, Dean Nathan Baxter, had phoned me at home and assured me the matter would be dealt with (it turns out, this wasn’t the perpetrator’s first infraction).  The (former) supervisor never returned to work.  I didn’t know such protection was possible, but I was grateful.

 I began to find my voice.  I realized I did not have to take it.

1998:  The year America firmed up its definition of power dynamic.
1998: The year America firmed up its definition of power dynamic.

1998 was the year of the Monica Lewinsky scandal when the intern in the White House had a relationship with the then President Bill Clinton.  We heard about her blue dress, her underwear, and heard things on the national news for many weeks that most had never heard discussed in workplaces, much less on national television.  What this situation really emphasized is that even if a relationship is consensual, when one person has authority over the other, it is inappropriate.  This wasn’t something discussed at the time. This power dynamic became something more workplaces discussed and it began to make its way into workplace policies.  It is inappropriate for someone in a position of authority to exert his or her control over another — even if consensual: A boss over a subordinate, a teacher over a student, a coach over a player, a president over an intern….

What this situation taught America is that even if a relationship is consensual, when one person has authority over the other, it is inappropriate.

Eventually, in the 1990s and early 2000s, sexual harassment suits started being filed and men finally started realizing that this “locker room banter” and “joking around” wasn’t something they could do without consequence.  Anita Hill’s testimony at the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court hearings suddenly thrust workplace harassment into the spotlight.  Unfortunately, in my observation, those who most needed this training – the executive level staff – lead attorneys in law firms – the ones who thought they didn’t have to attend such things – were the ones who needed it the most and then continued to behave as they had before. My theory is that some people, particularly senior, high-level people have not ever had formal sexual harassment training – or diversity training – etc. and so they truly don’t realize how offensive they are being. It just seems “normal” to speak about a woman sexually.   You can read a post I wrote on this here.

What I learned from these trainings is that I DON’T HAVE TO PUT UP WITH IT.  And, most importantly, supervisors now had a DUTY to report such behavior or they faced consequence.

Current time.  Once it happened in front of my children, I had to act.  I took legal and professional action seeking relief from sexual harassment. I was successful.

Tailgating
Tailgating

The harassment took place over many weekends.  High above the playing field and the locker rooms of the university where I work, tailgating is its own sport.  Most people go to have fun with their families and share the collegial college spirit that accompanies games.  Most people don’t go to these events and expect to be harassed.  Unfortunately, that was my experience. It began with suggestive comments (which I always brushed off and tried to ignore), it progressed to making lewd comments in front of this person’s friends and in front of my husband (we both asked him to stop numerous times), it progressed to commenting about my outfits, my body parts, etc. (which I again asked him to stop and that neither my husband nor I appreciated it). Then, one weekend, with my children with me, the harassment resumed. This time, he actually came up behind me blocking me from moving between him and my car and he made a disgusting comment about what he would like to see me do — while my younger son sat in the back seat overhearing this. My husband and I both reached out limit.

This time, I decided to do something.

sexualharassment4

I asked the University (athletics) that this person be moved from where he parked for tailgating and they said they couldn’t do anything “without proof”.  It was a classic case of “your word against his” (even though I had my husband as a witness with dates and times of the incidents).  They said I would need to obtain a police report for them to do anything (in retrospect, I’m glad they didn’t assist right away as I probably wouldn’t have followed through with a legal solution).  So, I went to the University police who directed me to go to the nearby courthouse to obtain a peace order (which was granted). At the hearing, the individual admitted to his behavior, wanted to apologize, said “he’d been drinking” (as if this excused the behavior), and said that he was just “kidding around” (a.k.a. “locker room banter”).  It was obvious he didn’t find much wrong with what he had been doing. He agreed to the terms of the peace order.  Then, the criminal charges were served (you don’t get a peace order without a criminal justification, so simultaneous criminal charges are filed, but that is between the State and the individual).  I got calls from someone representing him imploring me to drop the issue because “he is a senior executive at a bank” and “can’t afford to have this on his record”. I told them he should have thought about that before he spent his weekends harassing me – and that the call the person was making violated the terms of the peace order (I filed another peace order in the county in which I lived so that the breech was on record).  The call emboldened me to continue, knowing that his behavior was probably not isolated to the weekends.  The whole process wasn’t easy and it was time consuming.  Upon investigating the incidents, my University workplace deemed that this was harassment and responded in a professional manner which I appreciated.

At this point in my life, I believe I have a duty to speak out when harassment occurs and make sure that I set the person straight.  If I don’t, I know there is a woman after me who will suffer as a result.

 

My husband, Lyn, and me. Lyn has taught me many things, one of which is standing up to harassment.
My husband, Lyn, and me. Lyn has taught me many things, one of which is standing up to harassment.

Thankfully, I have a respectful husband who defends me.  I’ve learned a lot from him.  He doesn’t tolerate men joking around him about women.  I’ve watched him shut down “locker room banter” many times.  He doesn’t even like hearing it in a movie or on television (he’ll change the channel).  He has empowered me to draw a firmer line in what I will tolerate and has helped me take action when I decided I had reached my limit.

Fortunately, there are laws to not only protect women from such behavior, but also show them the path forward to obtain relief (particularly if their attempts have failed).  Sometimes you have to take action in order to stop someone.  Hopefully the threat of such actions can keep other people in line (who behave as if they can speak or act any way they wish).

Harassment is common. Image courtesy of Mamathefeminist.com
Harassment is common. Image courtesy of Mamathefeminist.com

I don’t buy the “boys will be boys” comment.  I don’t buy “locker room banter”.  I’ve shared stories about these things with my sons so that they know how women feel — and so that they can shut down this type of discussion when they hear it.  It isn’t just women who are insulted by hearing sexist comments….

Insisting that it is normal to joke about sexual assault and harassment is also insulting to men.

Watching the recent news that has become public this week doesn’t surprise me at all. It just was one of millions of conversations that go on day in and day out.  However, this time it was caught on tape — and America was horrified. Hopefully, the women subjected to this will speak out and take action. The legal system, it seems, is about the only thing that gets the attention of people set in their ways. There are some good things that could come out from this week — one of them is a sea change in how men speak about and behave around women.

Thanks for reading.

Stacey

P.S. To dismiss sensitivity about sexual harassment as “political correctness” is to perpetuate behavior that is offensive and illegal.

Resources:

Stop harassing behavior (scripts and behavior suggestions).

Your rights if sexually harassed.

Stacey Sickels Locke, CFRE
Stacey Sickels Locke, CFRE

Stacey brings over twenty-five years of fundraising and nonprofit management with organizations in higher education, independent schools, faith-based organizations, social services, and the arts.   She currently serves as Senior Director of Development for the University of Maryland.  Enthusiasm, innovation, and passion are hallmarks of her work resulting in over $100 million raised for annual operations, capital campaigns, comprehensive campaigns, endowments, planned gifts, and special events. Responsible for raising the largest gift in the history of the University of Maryland to establish the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation.  She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), is affiliated (through the University of Maryland) with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and holds a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification from CFRE International.  Stacey graduated from Sweet Briar College and has completed graduate work at University of Maryland University College.

 

 

Follow us....facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

Shared Governance: Roses Emerge from the Briars – Stakeholder Engagement after the Attempted Closure and Resurrection of Sweet Briar College

shared governance

This spring my Nonprofit Management course assigned a research project on critical trends facing the nonprofit sector.  There is nothing more critical than governance.  The success of Sweet Briar College surviving a closure attempt by its former board provides ample inspiration for research on governance.

As an elected member of the University of Maryland Senate, I have a new appreciation for shared governance.  I chair the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the University Senate.  As a staff member, I have never been engaged in shared governance until now.  It is quite amazing sitting alongside students (undergraduate, graduate and post-gradate); faculty (tenured and professional track); staff (hourly, professsional and managerial); and ex-officio members from key departments.  This spring, we worked on four new policies for the University including a policy on Nondiscrimination, Sexual Harassment, and Disability.  Our original policy will have to wait until next semester for action, but it is very important (a policy on students who change their name or gender and need consistency with University databases).  Shared governance works extremely well at the University of Maryland and I can see how it would benefit any institution.

I chose to focus my research paper on shared governance as it is a topic very near and dear to many stakeholders of Sweet Briar College.  The attempted closure of Sweet Briar College resulted in multiple law suits seeking to stop the closure.  The mediation brokered by the Virginia Attorney General allowed each party to the suit to appoint three members of the new Sweet Briar College board.  Students, alumnae, faculty and the Commonwealth of Virginia suit (funded by alumnae) were able to appoint new members.  This new board ushers in a new era of governance at Sweet Briar College more inclusive than past boards. The new board of Sweet Briar has expressed a commitment to engaging stakeholders.

This annotated bibliography and research paper focuses on best practices for shared governance examining the key stakeholders responsible for the saving of Sweet Briar College:  Students, faculty, staff, community, and the founder.

My abstract follows:

Higher education is in crisis. In March, 2015, the President and Board of Sweet Briar College, whose symbol is a rose, attempted to close the 100-year-old institution in rural Virginia.  Stakeholders revolted, filed suits and ultimately control of the College was handed to a new board.  The circumstances faced by Sweet Briar are not unique and point to trends in higher education. The suits filed and the saving of Sweet Briar provide examples of engaged stakeholders fighting for their rights.  This paper examines each stakeholder’s role in the attempted closure and examples from other institutions practicing shared governance.  Shared governance can be a path through crisis. References provide trend data on higher education and examples of shared governance at other institutions.  Sources also provide glimpses into the trends of higher education faced by governing boards and stakeholders, including where there are breakdowns in communication and governance. Reference sources highlight stakeholder groups including student, faculty, staff (administrators and support), alumni and the wider community.  Sweet Briar College must reinvent itself and its governance.  Lessons learned from other institutions can be considered for the future. The collective voices represented in shared governance yields more roses than briars.

Annotated Bibliography:   Saving the Rose – Stakeholder Engagement at Sweet briar College

Research Paper:  Roses Emerge from the Briars — Stakeholder Engagement after the Attempted Closure and Resurrection of Sweet Briar College

Follow us....facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

Lessons learned from a phoenix and a vixen: Examining the attempted closure of Wilson College and Sweet Briar College

Fox in flames (credit: Fur Nation)

I am currently in graduate school pursuing a Masters in Business with Nonprofit Management concentration.  This semester, I am taking Organizational Theory and Nonprofit Management.  Each course required me to prepare an annotated bibliography and an individual paper.  With my instructor’s permission, I chose Sweet Briar College, my alma mater, as my focus (normally, you cannot pursue the same research subject in different courses).

My first assignment came in the Organizational Theory course.  We were to take a case study covered in an academic journal and use it as a basis for our individual paper.   This seemed daunting at first.  However, as I began my research, I found many case studies with similarities to Sweet Briar College.  The attempted closure of Wilson College has startling similarities to the attempted closure of Sweet Briar College.  The annotated bibliography provides a “deep dive” in issues facing higher education and the lessons available to learn from Wilson College.  You may find a link below.

Annotated Bibliography:  Phoenix rose emerges from the briar fire (annotated bibliography comparing Wilson College’s attempted closure to Sweet Briar College).

Research Paper:  Lessons learned from a phoenix and a vixen.

fox and flames

As the paper came together, the title changed and some sources fell away in favor of others.  The lessons learned from the attempted closure of Wilson College are relevant for many colleges.  The abstract follows:

Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, whose mascot is the phoenix, survived a closure attempt in the 1980s. Sweet Briar College, in Amherst, Virginia, whose mascot is a vixen (fox), faced attempted closure in 2015 and was saved by its stakeholders six months later. This paper explores case studies and articles reporting on Wilson College and Sweet Briar College.  Other articles elaborate on trends faced by the Colleges and the broader sector of higher education.  Reviewing these colleges provides valuable lessons on challenges facing higher education, particularly for private, single-sex institutions.  The case for this research is Wilson College with comparisons to Sweet Briar College. Both colleges are small women’s colleges with enrollment under 1,000.

Keywords: Sweet Briar College, Wilson College, stakeholders, shared governance, students, faculty, staff, exempt staff, non-exempt staff, alumni, alumnae, minority, president, board.

 

 

 

 

Follow us....facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

Giving Tuesday: Give WHERE, WHY, HOW, and to WHAT Inspires YOU

#GivingTuesday - support your favorite organization.
#GivingTuesday – support your favorite organization.

Giving Tuesday

Black Friday.  Small Business Saturday.  Cyber Monday.  Giving Tuesday.

For professional fundraisers, every day is “Giving Tuesday” – we go through our weeks with Giving Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday (and, for many Saturday and Sunday).

Don’t get me wrong.  I love #GivingTuesday.  On this #GivingTuesday – I encourage you to make a gift that feels FANTASTIC and it EXACTLY what inspires YOU.  The organizations you care about are undoubtedly sending you numerous appeals to join the masses and be counted.  If that inspires you, great.  But I encourage you to think a little deeper.  Think about giving in honor of someone who inspired you such as a coach or college professor.  Think about giving to an organization you see doing good work in your community.  Choose a special project you think could use a little boost.  If you are a loyal tither or have an existing pledge with your organization, consider doing something outside of that in an area you’ve been curious about.

Give to Inspire

As I enter my 25th year of raising funds for a living, I truly feel honored to work in my profession.  I get to work with generous people making the world a better place – through giving to students, institutions, projects, religious organizations, and environmental causes.  Donors make music come alive; buildings come out of the ground; dancers take the stage; athletes competing on the field; ideas creating movements; save animals from extinction and uplift social justice.  Engaging donors to fulfill these visions and dreams is truly inspiring.

But we don’t make it easy for them.  Donors, that is.  As fundraisers, we don’t make giving easy.  Instead, we use terms that disenfranchise or uninspire and we put out materials that act as a funnel for creative ideas which, I believe, leads to a smaller gift at the other end.  We create big campaigns which sometimes make people feel their impact is a drop in the bucket.  We create challenges and deadlines that are sometimes self imposed.  We have paper forms to complete, long memorandums for gift agreements, complicated reports, and our giving “opportunities” either read like diner menus or a one-item-only blue light special.

Even on #GivingTuesday, I find myself rather uninspired by the messages from the charities I care about.  The plea is to give.  Very few say why or the difference that it would make.

We need to interrupt these practices, take a step back, listen longer, encourage dreaming.  The largest gifts I have helped to usher in were from donors passionate about something.  The reason I give is when I know someone is sharing their passion and invites me to help make a dream come true.

“Unrestricted” Giving vs. Partnership

Early in my career, I was responsible for raising “annual gifts”.  While I had the same eager donors with whom to work, the “menu” I was able to offer them was much narrower.  I had a bucket to fill for my organization and gifts outside of that bucket were not only not welcomed, sometimes I couldn’t even accept them.  Or, gifts below a certain dollar range automatically went into an unrestricted fund.

Consider the term “unrestricted giving”.  It is one of the least inspiring terms in the fundraising lexicon, yet we use it all the time. Every organization needs budget-relieving gifts.   But instead of breaking the operating budget into pieces that might appeal to donors, we try instead to induct the dreaming donor into the dreary world of “need” and “keeping the lights on” and spend a good deal of time on the “how” of giving (monthly, annually, via credit card, etc.) rather than the WHAT of giving.  We save the big projects, big ideas and gifts for special things for those with the largest resources (or those who are smart enough to ask).

Just this evening I was invited to a conversation with a group working on their College reunion.  The eager volunteer had been asked to be a Class Agent and she was excited!  What I found interesting (and helpful as a fundraiser) was hearing the dialogue from her peers who had held the role previously.  Their “lessons learned” read like a “DO NOT EVER DO THIS” to me as a fundraiser.  One of the key points was how little room for creativity and designation there existed for the volunteer as well as the donor.  The experienced volunteer gave advice we all should follow, “Inspire people!  If they cared about English, let them give there.  If they loved soccer, let them give there.”  Getting people started giving where they care and have a personal relationship is the best way to inspire philanthropy.  By building that relationship, there is a greater possibility of guiding someone to a project that might need investment.

Every organization needs valuable donor partners who trust the organization enough to give a gift where it is most needed.  We need to inspire this type of giving, not demand it.  We need to treat our donors so well that a gift to our organization feels like one of the most special they give.  We also need to give choices, even if those choices are within the budget categories that keep our organization running.

Micro Campaigns

The greatest innovation in philanthropy in recent years is the movement towards micro giving and micro campaigns.  With these campaigns, donors can choose to fund projects.  The interesting thing is that donors often give multiple times throughout the year and enjoy participating in these grass roots campaigns with clear goals and exciting outcomes.  An example at the University of Maryland is a campaign for the program to restore bee populations and train bee keepers:

These types of campaigns get people excited about giving.  I’ve seen some of my University’s major donors and board members give to these micro campaigns throughout the year.

Giving doesn’t have to be a day.  It doesn’t have to be annual.  It doesn’t have to be obligatory.  It should inspire.

Inspired #GivingTuesday 

Make this #GivingTuesday your own micro campaign.  Choose something that inspires you.  If it is becoming a partner for an organization, do consider a gift without restriction; however, don’t be bashful if the thing you want to support isn’t on the “list” or check box.

And if you are a fundraiser, take a moment to make your own gift to something that inspires you.

Want some ideas?

Consider investing in the College that was saved by its alumnae and features some of the most loyal students in the country!  Give to the Sweet Briar College Fund.  You can read about their story here. 

Stacey Sickels Locke, CFRE, is a proud graduate of Sweet Briar College, Class of 1988.  She served as an employee of the College in the early 1990s working on the $25 million Campaign.  During that time, she solicited many leadership gifts which make up the current endowment. Since then, she has spent her career building support for higher education and the nonprofit community as a staff member and consultant for boards.  Stacey is a Senior Director of  in the College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences.  She is working with the Department of Computer Science on a campaign for a new building, the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation made possible by  the largest gift in the history of the University of Maryland, $31 million.  She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), is affiliated (through the University of Maryland) with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and holds a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification from CFRE International.

#GivingTuesday - support your favorite organization.
#GivingTuesday – support your favorite organization.
Follow us....facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

“The Little College that Could: Saving Sweet Briar College” — link to my article in CASE Currents

 

CASE Cover photo with students and alumnae (photo credit: www.beckylambert.com)
CASE Cover photo with students and alumnae (photo credit: www.beckylambert.com)

The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) prints a monthly magazine for professionals working in Advancement.  I’ve had the honor of writing for them twice this year about two significant fundraising experiences I’ve had.  The first was writing about the Largest Gift in the History of the University of Maryland from Brendan Iribe.  While this was an amazing experience personally and professionally, the saving of my College is right up there among my proudest moments.  Below is a link to this month’s magazine:

Full Magazine Article Link (scroll down to page 20):  “The Little College that Could… How Alumnae Saved Sweet Briar College”

Online version (without photos):  

 Link to the Digital Edition (for CASE members this may take you to the login screen; for non CASE members,  you can email me [staceysickels @ gmail.com – remove spaces first] for a guest password, but I can’t print it here).

I’ve written at length about the amazing success story of Sweet Briar College here in my blog.  This article is written from my perspective as a professional fundraiser working – as a volunteer – to help save my College. It answers the questions I am often asked by colleagues, “How did you do it?” and “How can I learn from this?”

CASE Cover Photo with Tracy Stuart and students (photo credit: www.beckylambert.com)
CASE Cover Photo with Tracy Stuart and students (photo credit: www.beckylambert.com)

I am very grateful for the opportunity to serve on the Major Gift Committee for saving Sweet Briar and have been asked to serve as a regional representative for the new Alumnae Alliance for Sweet Briar.

CASE Cover photo with students (Photo credit: www.beckylambert.com)
CASE Cover photo with students (Photo credit: www.beckylambert.com)

The team at CASE:  Ken Budd, Toni Coleman and Angela Carpenter do an amazing job every month pulling together ideas, authors,  photographs and creative graphic design.  So glad that Becky Johnston-Lambert and Russell Harrison’s photo credits are included.  I will share comments below with the CASE editorial staff so thanks for sharing!

Enjoy!  PDF link:  “The Little College that Could… How Alumnae Saved Sweet Briar College”

 Please consider supporting the amazing students, faculty, staff and community at Sweet Briar College.

CASE Cover photo (Seth Meyers photo bombed!). Photo credit: www.beckylambert.com
CASE Cover photo (Seth Meyers photo bombed!). Photo credit: www.beckylambert.com

Stacey Sickels Locke, CFRE, is a proud graduate of Sweet Briar College, Class of 1988.  She served as an employee of the College in the early 1990s working on the $25 million Campaign.  During that time, she solicited many leadership gifts which make up the current endowment. Since then, she has spent her career building support for higher education and the nonprofit community as a staff member and consultant for boards.  Stacey is a Senior Director of  in the College of Computer, Mathematical and Natural Sciences.  She is working with the Department of Computer Science on a campaign for a new building, the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation made possible by  the largest gift in the history of the University of Maryland, $31 million.  She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), is affiliated (through the University of Maryland) with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and holds a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification from CFRE International.

Follow us....facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

College Fairs: Finding a Place to Call Home and Falling in Love All Over Again

With a College sophomore, a junior in high school and working at a University, I am knee-deep in College hunting and surrounded by high school and College age students.  I’ve often said that I have LOVED every single phase of my children’s lives, but this phase offers particular joys and learning opportunities.

Working at a College Fair afforded me a unique window on this chapter of life from the perspective of students and parents I didn’t know.

Blank Slate: Arriving at the College Fair.
Blank Slate: Arriving at the College Fair.

A Blank Slate

A large (un-airconditioned) gym, a plastic folding table, two metal folding chairs and the name of the College:  this is the blank slate Colleges start with when engaging with potential students. All are equal until the representatives and materials arrive.

This blank slate is also felt by students who are considering where they will attend College. If you ask the question to many teenagers, “Where do you want to go to College?” The answer you will usually hear is, “Dunno”.  It is hardly surprising they respond this way.  The sheer number of choices can be overwhelming.

“Dunno” concerns me; however, given how important these years of education are to those who are fortunate enough to access them.  So much is at stake:

  1. Higher education.
  2. Relationships forged for a lifetime.
  3. Lifetime network.
  4. Foundation for graduate school or career.

Not all colleges or universities offer the same experience  (hardly!) or the quality of interaction post graduation.  Discernment through questions, college fairs, meeting representatives and campus visits is essential.  It is too bad that more time in high school cannot be devoted to the process.

Fortunately, my two sons were part of a program that exposed them to College searching in Middle School.  They visited area colleges touring through academic halls, dorms, athletic fields, auditoriums and (their favorite) dining halls.  They had mock College Fairs where they designed science-fair like displays about a College and they acted as admissions officers for their younger classes. When the mock college fair came about, I recall that my younger son picked Cornell University (which he has visited as we have family who live nearby) and my older son picked the University of Maryland (where I work and where he has attended many games as season ticket holder).

Through my son’s program, they explored broader questions such as:

  • Do you like smaller or larger classes?
  • Do you want to play sports in College?  (Important to discuss the reality of this possibility and opportunities if a student is not likely to make a team)
  • Would you like to be in a warm or cold climate?  Do you want to experience all four seasons?
  • What might you want to do after graduation?  Are there college programs for that? P.S.  It is TOTALLY OKAY if you don’t know — that’s also what College is for.

Working at a college fair made me realize what a benefit they had been afforded being exposed to these questions so early in their lives.

Exposing children early to choices after high school gives them something to compare and contrast.

Student volunteers greeted College representatives and escorted them to their tables. I noted all of the students with whom I interacted came and visited.
Student volunteers greeted College representatives and escorted them to their tables. I noted all of the students with whom I interacted came and visited.

Engaging with a College

Standing behind the table at a College Fair is kind of like cold calling, only even less personal.  Many of the students passing by have their gaze towards the floor and hurry past.  It almost felt as if some of them felt that by inquiring, they were somehow intruding.  I am sure the room felt overwhelming to them.

Our table featured brochures with smiling faces, pink and green (school colors), and program fliers on study abroad, equestrian programs and a list of majors.

Most students engaging with us were unsure of their major.  What surprised me is how guilty they seemed to feel about this.  So many of the (large) schools to which they were applying required them to select their major coming in — even having to apply to competitive majors alongside their general admissions.  I am familiar with this dilemma as I work at the University of Maryland.

It disturbs me – this trend to specialize so young.  Most high schools with strong academic programs scarcely have the time for students to explore potential fields of interest.  My sons were tracked into advanced math and AP programs squeezing out any chance for most “elective” courses.  Most of their friends were on the same path.  How any of these students can feel they have found their major/passion/purpose when their course selection has been prescribed and required baffles me.

Most smaller liberal arts colleges don’t even allow a student to “declare” a major until their junior year.  Their first two years expose them to required and elective courses offering a vast array of options.  Perhaps my sons hearing me encourage them to EXPLORE versus SPECIALIZE led my older son to select an independent, liberal arts college instead of the University of Maryland (where I have tuition benefits).  I was actually quite pleased.  I suspect his brother will follow in his footsteps.

Our table featured fliers on programs, brochures with smiling faces and (our secret weapon it turned out) FLOWERS.
Our table featured fliers on programs, brochures with smiling faces and (our secret weapon it turned out) FLOWERS.

Process of Elimination

How students add to and eliminate colleges on their list is somewhat of a mysterious process.  It is often influenced by family connections, their friends and perhaps an individual who turned a college into a smiling and welcoming face.  That was certainly true for me when I chose Sweet Briar College.  It was also true for my son when the admissions officers reached out to him from Principia College.

A college fair offers a bewildering array of choices.  Colleges are in alphabetical order.  If it were up to me, I would arrange them geographically or by size.  Those seem to be two main filters I heard from students:

I want to attend a big University.

I want to attend a college where its warm.

College fairs are a sea of tables each with similar smiling faces - yet each offers a unique experience.
College fairs are a sea of tables each with similar smiling faces – yet each offers a unique experience.

My fellow alumna, Sara Rothamel, and I began engaging students. We made eye contact, said hellos and began to engage.   The tables around us were manned by professional admissions officers, a few parents and some alumni (like us) were sprinkled among the tables as well. My first observation is that the parents and alumni manning tables were much more conversational with prospective students. The tables around us with just one person were much quieter throughout the evening and seemed to have less interaction.

We found quick questions and ways to engage  such as:

  • Have you thought about College in Virginia?
  • Have you considered a woman’s College?
  • Hi!

We were aided by many people coming giving us high fives and fist pumps to congratulate us on Sweet Briar being saved.  As we chatted, the energy and interest attracted other students and their parents.  At some points, we were two-people deep!

Our other “secret weapon” were our flowers.  Prior to this college fair, photographs of fellow alumni working at college fairs began to appear on my social media feeds.  Alumnae decorated with our mascot, school colors, their own photographs and a few used flowers.  A cheerful vase of daisies certainly seemed inviting.  I mixed some pink roses and daisies.  They were a hit from the get-go.  One young woman brought her mother with her who shared, “My daughter’s friend found us in the other gym and said, ‘Go see the table with the roses!’ so we came right over.”

Every college table had pictures of smiling faces, bucolic campus scenes, animated professors, athletes engaged in sports, etc.  We needed something to set us apart.

Whatever it takes….

Questions

I was intrigued by the questions… and the lack thereof.

I’ll tell you this — we are going to have a whole lot better crime solving in the years to come (or a bunch more prosecuted criminals).  There are a lot of CSI-watching teenagers who are dead-set on becoming the next Abby Sciuto.  I will hand it to these students, they knew exactly what they wanted in their next college:  Make me a famous CSI (crime scene investigator).  While we tried to sell the benefits of a strong science curriculum, not having an actual major led these students to gather a few pink and green brochures, but then turn on their heel.

Have you ever considered a women’s college?

We asked this question as an opener.  Our pink and green and flowers seemed to send the right message to filter out the wayward young man who ventured over.  I was happy to speak to them since I have sons.  I steered a few towards our brother college, Hampden Sidney; my father’s college, the Citadel; and liberal arts colleges in general.

Most young women who approached our table or who we had engaged had not thought about a woman’s college.  We shared some of the benefits:

  1. Women find their voice.
  2. Women get involved.
  3. Sisterhood and friendships.
  4. Superior academics; knowing your professors.
  5. Great social life – on campus and in the region.
We had a number of very interested students who lingered for nearly a half-hour. We hope these students convert to enrollments!
We had a number of very interested students who lingered for nearly a half-hour. We hope these students convert to enrollments!

As the fair continued to unfold, our numbers increased.  Equestrians with a love of horses and knowledge of our national riding program came by with sincere interest.  Girls with an interest in the sciences and technology were impressed by our having one of only two accredited engineering programs in the country.

Some of the questions I found particularly thoughtful from parents:

Tell me about your board of directors and the college leadership.

What is the network for students like AFTER graduation?  How do you help students secure work and what is your rate of placing students in jobs?

What opportunities are there for parents to participate in the life of their student?

Some particularly memorable student questions:

Will I be able to make friends?

How many classes do I take a day? (this is a particularly smart question since College schedules are so different than high school)

Can I create my own major?

Finances

I was surprised by the few questions we had about cost.  Throughout the evening, we had two questions about tuition and financial aid. It could be that the high school is in a rather affluent area and that students are blessed with parents who have budgeted their college. Those who did inquire were not phased by the price tag, particularly as we explained that financial aid decisions were made independent of admission.

 

It's not over until....
While our fellow colleges packed up at the stroke of 8:30, we lingered until after 9pm speaking to interested students.

It’s not over until….

In characteristic Sweet Briar fashion, we  lingered well past “closing time”.  At a place where learning is 24/7, where you know your professors and you take great pride in your education, a 9 to 5 culture just doesn’t exist.  All around us our fellow college counselors folded their chairs, packed up their brochures and snapped their cases closed at the stroke of 8:30pm when the fair was to end.  However, there were students still circulating throughout the fair. As a steady stream of admissions officers filed out, Sara and I continued to greet students and hear about their hopes and dreams.  One of our most earnest candidates came towards the very end.

Alumnae at work: Sara Rothamel and me at the Broadneck College Fair.
Alumnae at work: Sara Rothamel and me at the Broadneck College Fair.

The Morning After

As I held the fan of interest cards in my hand, I thought about each precious prospective student who had interacted with us.  I remembered what had set Sweet Briar apart for me when I looked at Colleges – a personal touch.  Sara and I agreed we would contact a few of the students who seemed particularly interested.  I decided I would get some Sweet Briar postcards to send to the students with a personal note of encouragement (not just to apply, but also that they find a place where they feel at home).

A Place to Call Home

Having moved during my middle school and high school years, I yearned for a place I could call home.  Sweet Briar’s friendly admissions officers, gatherings in my town, and my overnight visit made me feel welcomed.  I couldn’t imagine attending anyplace else.

My sincere hope for every student and their family is that they find a place they can call home.  It is a privilege to attend College.  There are so many options today. Being part of a residential community is a particular gift as so much growth happens outside of the classroom and on a campus where you and your mind can roam, explore and grow.

Regardless of how many job changes, moves or relationship changes one may have in their life, their college can offer a consistent place to call home.  Its alumnae/alumni network may also serve as a network for their entire career.  Which is, of course, why I have worked so earnestly to save the College I love over the past months (but, thankfully, this isn’t a post about that).

Having worked at my local community college (voted the top college in the country!), I know that that sense of home is also possible even if a student is still living at home.  There are exceptional community colleges around the country with caring faculty, staff and amazing opportunities for students to grow and explore career options.

Still, having worked for one of the best community colleges in the country, the flagship University of Maryland and knowing many colleges and universities around the country, nothing compares to the benefits of an independent liberal arts college and a woman’s college.  An independent liberal arts college like Sweet Briar offers an exceptional education — and a community — not just for four years, but for a lifetime.

Consider working at a college fair.  You’ll fall in love with your college all over again.

 

Follow us....facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

Saving Sweet Briar: The Bells are Ringing for me and my Gals!

It could have been “For Whom the Bell Tolls”, but instead it is “The Bells are Ringing!”

bells Dean martin

My dear readers have followed the story of my college, Sweet Briar, over the past six months.  On March 3, 2015, those who loved Sweet Briar received a terrible shock.  The President and Board had voted to close.  Shortly thereafter, Saving Sweet Briar, Inc., a nonprofit organization, mobilized to raise funds and launch a legal battle. Thousands rallied around them supporting additional legal suits, fundraisers, events and more — in support of a single goal to keep the College alive and honor the will of the founder.  As you are aware by now, the efforts were successful.  After a collective gasp and sharp inhale over many months, a slow exhale begins.

On September 2, 2015, Saving Sweet Briar will deliver the final payment as a part of the settlement agreement — on time and with extra.   The website says,

“September 2 is a day to celebrate . . . together! At 12 Noon EST, ring a bell if you have one, and let’s show the world our colors—a sea of pink and green! And please share our story of tenacity and determination. WE, the alumnae of Sweet Briar College, have preserved this unique institution of higher education to empower future generations of young women—just as it empowered us.”

In tribute to all who have worked so hard for this effort, I offer a literary tolling of bells with scenes of the Sweet Briar Bell Tower:

Cupola of the Bell Tower, Briar Patch post card.
Cupola of the Bell Tower, Briar Patch post card.

Daisy in whose memory the College was established as a “perpetual memorial”.

bells 5

Indiana Fletcher Williams, Daisy’s mother, whose will established Sweet Briar College.

bells 2

The Presidents of Sweet Briar College (with one exception whose name will not grace these pages).  Some of these Presidents I only knew as the names of some of our dormitories or academic buildings, but I had the pleasure of knowing personally all of the Presidents Since Nenah Fry.:

Philip Stone, 2015-

Jo Ellen Parker, 2009-2014

Elisabeth Showalter Muhlenfeld, President emerita, 1996-2009

Barbara A. Hill, 1990-1996

Menahy Elinor Fry,  1983-1990

Harold B. Whiteman, Jr., 1971-1983

Anne Gary Pannell, 1950-1971

Martha B. Lucas, 1946-1950

Meta Glass, 1925-1946

Emilie Watts McVea, 1916-1925

Mary K. Benedict, 1906-1916

bells

The Board of Directors of Sweet Briar College

A special bell rings for Teresa Tomlinson `87, Esquire, Chair of the Board and one of the most compelling graduation speakers of 2015. I had the pleasure of knowing Teresa as a student at Sweet Briar.  I looked up to her as leader of the student government then, and I salute her now!

A "No Confidence" banner hung off the Sweet Briar bell tower - a symbolic heart of campus.
A “No Confidence” banner hung off the Sweet Briar bell tower – a symbolic heart of campus.

Saving Sweet Briar if it were not for the brave women of Saving Sweet Briar – and their families – we would not have had the structure to raise funds and reach the successful settlement.  These women funded and launched the fight and pointed the way forward. Their torch lit the way.

Jo Ann Soderquist Kramer (Sweet Briar College, AB 1964; University of Virginia, MS Aerospace Engineering 1967)

Sarah Clement, Chair of the Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. Board (Sweet Briar College, AB 1975; University of Virginia School of Law, JD 1984)

Sally Mott Freeman (Sweet Briar College, AB 1976)

Christine Boulware, Secretary of the Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. Board (Sweet Briar College, AB 1977)

Tracy Stuart (Sweet Briar College, AB 1993).  Tracy provided the funds to launch the initial legal suit and is putting her love for the College to work as a coach.

Ellen O. Pitera (Sweet Briar College, AB 1993; University of Virginia, MA Teaching 1999)

Brooke Linville (Sweet Briar College, 2000-2002, George Washington University BA 2004).  Brooke created the Saving Sweet Briar website and fueled the social media campaign with creative messages and images.

bells clouds

Legal

Legal minds provided the way forward to saving Sweet Briar College.  Special bells must ring for:

Ellen Bowyer, County Attorney for Amherst County, Virginia

Elliott J. Schuchardt, Esquire

Troutman Sanders, LLP

White & Case, LLP

Media

This graceful image of the bell tower taken by Aaron Mahler, graced the majority of the news articles in 2015.
This graceful image of the bell tower taken by Aaron Mahler, graced the majority of the news articles in 2015.

Without media attention, the stories raising up the efforts to save Sweet Briar would have been been eclipsed by the constant “implosion” stories.  Still, all of the reporters who covered the stories and their news outlets deserve a special tolling of the bells.

Social Media

Without social media, this special college would likely not have been saved.  Through Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Reddit, Instagram, Pinterest, Youtube and beyond, the stories, photos, people and passion of Sweet Briar made its way to the hearts and minds of thousands. Within these platforms, the social networks, conversations and fabric held people together, rallied generosity, raised important issues, researched important issues and held leaders accountable.   My “friends” on Facebook doubled after March 3, 2015.  My last count of the groups I have been invited to join numbers over 20.

Sweet Briar 2.0 - the collective strategic ideas for the future.
Sweet Briar 2.0 – the collective strategic ideas for the future.

Sweet Briar 2.0 gathered together the many strategic ideas for the future of the College.  Hundreds contributed initially through email chains, spreadsheets, Facebook groups and subject matter discussions resulting in a living and breathing website.

One of the brilliant memes created during the social media campaign to save Sweet Briar College.
One of the brilliant memes created during the social media campaign to save Sweet Briar College.

The Major Gift Task Force brought together volunteers with fundraising experience (or willingness) to reach out to past major donors of the College and beyond.  On the front for saving Sweet Briar, these were the soldiers with whom I spent the majority of my time.  Each week we had conference calls under the leadership of Mary Pope Hutson, now a board member.  Without official donor lists, we called from spreadsheets, email suggestions and memory. The donors who responded not only were generous, they were very, very patient.

In the shadow of the bell tower, faculty helped students returning to Sweet Briar.
In the shadow of the bell tower, faculty helped students returning to Sweet Briar.

Faculty and Staff of Sweet Briar are the heart of the College.  Without superior academics, there would be no College.  When you ask any student what the College means to her (or him), you will hear stories about faculty.  For me, my English and Psychology professors continue to influence me today such as Susan Beers.  I miss those who are no longer alive:  Professors Ralph Aiken, Karl Tamburr, Ross Dabney, and David Johnson.

The Chapel steeple rises above the Bell Tower.
The Chapel steeple rises above the Bell Tower.

Prayer, the Chapel, the Chaplain and the Chaplain’s House

As a student at Sweet Briar College, I served on the search committee for the new chaplain.  My classmate, Kelly Meredith Iacobelli, and a representative group of faculty and staff poured through resumes from around the country.  The Reverend Susan Lehman and her husband, John Dalzell, came to Sweet Briar and moved into the Chaplain’s House (now Hubbard House lovingly restored by the Hubbard family).   At the Chapel I was confirmed, gave my first sermon and laid a strong spiritual foundation.   At the Chaplain’s house, I discussed issues of the day over memorable meals and found solace in the home-like atmosphere.   Susan and all of the spiritual leaders of Sweet Briar who came before and after her all deserve the ringing of bells.  The prayer of Emily Watts McVea from 1928 inspired me to write this post at reunion, 2015.

The hitching post painted the colors of 1988, gold and purple, with the bell tower in the background.
The hitching post painted the colors of 1988, gold and purple, with the bell tower in the background.

“My” Classes and “My” Places

Every person who feels close to an institution owes that bond to the people who share it with them.  I am blessed with deep connections through my time as a student, as an employee and as a volunteer over the years.  As beautiful as a campus may be, acres and buildings cannot love us back.  People can.  My classmates of 1988 were there to greet me at Orientation  and they are treasured friends today.  The classes around me are also very special:  1985, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991.  It is one’s classmates who primarily weave together the fabric of memory and community.  Since I worked at the College, I also got to know well the students of 1993, 1994, 1995, and 1996.  Having served as Regional Campaign Director, I made friends around the country with alumnae of all ages in Atlanta, Boston, New York, Baltimore, San Francisco, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Houston and Washington, DC.  I rarely travel around the U.S. (or the world) without reaching out to fellow alumnae.  This past summer, I enjoyed spending time with alumnae in Paris and London.

Alumnae gather after the successful settlement was announced. (Photo: WSET)
Alumnae gather after the successful settlement was announced. (Photo: WSET)

The Alumnae of Sweet Briar College deserve the constant tolling of bells given their loyalty and friendship over the years and especially over the past six months.  The events around the country, fundraisers and work days at the College are truly inspiring.  I’ve written about the incredible efforts by alumnae engagement in this post.

Reflections of the bell tower.
Reflections of the bell tower.

My Sweet Briar Mentors

As I reflect on my career, it is my Sweet Briar mentors who come to mind as shaping the person and colleague I have come to be.   As a Freshman, Martha Clement, hired me to be a phonathon caller.  Two days a week I took my stack of cards and called alumnae to encourage them to give.  Week after week, year after year, this experience shaped me into the fundraiser I am today.  Martha believed in me and encouraged me on.  Sometimes, she would ask me to come back in the afternoons between official calling nights to make calls to some of her “special people” (ironically, some of those same people are the people I called to save Sweet Briar).   Martha would be so proud that her daughter was one of the leaders of Saving Sweet Briar.

At my fifth year reunion, Denise McDonald (now the Vice President for Development at Lynchburg College) and Mitch Moore (now the Vice President of Development for Shenandoah College) encouraged me to come and work for Sweet Briar and the $35 million campaign.  The Regional Campaigns Denise taught me to run provided the basis for the next 10 years of my career.  Nancy Baldwin read every letter I wrote, critiqued my phone calls and edited my proposals.  I am a better writer because of her.  Louise Zingaro provided invaluable advice, introductions and friendship.  Bradley Hale, Chair of the Atlanta Campaign and Vice Chair of the Board at the time, provided my introduction to the National Cathedral and my career beyond Sweet Briar.  Martha Holland, Tracy Savage, Claire Dennison Griffith, Missy Witherow, Michaela English, Allie Stemmons Simon are alumnae who helped guide and shape my work over the years.

Credit: Art DewPrincessReturns on Deviant Art
Credit: Heather Anne Spear

Students

Without students and the families who support them, there would be no College to continue.  The students are the living embodiment of all that Sweet Briar represents.  Without students to absorb the wisdom of faculty, there would be no degrees.  Without students needing sustenance, there would be no dining services.  Without students pursuing their dreams, there would be no Admissions Office.  Without students, the dorms would be empty.  Without students, donors would find no reason to give. Our bells chime the loudest for the students and their families who were willing to return and to choose Sweet Briar College.

If my words could be bells, they would ring for hours (if not days).  I do hope to be a bell for Sweet Briar College ringing into the future.

SAVED! This photo was taken of me from a crowd that assembled during "the last" Reunion for a rousing cheer for the future.
SAVED! This photo was taken of me from a crowd that assembled during “the last” Reunion for a rousing cheer for the future.

Stacey Sickels Locke, CFRE, is a proud graduate of Sweet Briar College, Class of 1988.  She served as an employee of the College in the early 1990s working on the $25 million Campaign.  During that time, she solicited many leadership gifts which make up the current endowment. Since then, she has spent her career building support for higher education and the nonprofit community as a staff member and consultant for boards.  As a volunteer, she has served Sweet Briar since graduation as a fundraiser, admissions ambassador and now advocate for the #saveSweetBriar movement. She raises funds for Saving Sweet Briar, a charitable organization committed to the future of the College  She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), is affiliated (through the University of Maryland) with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and holds a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification from CFRE International.

 

Follow us....facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

Rising 8.25.15 … Students Flock back to Sweet Briar College

Flamingos "flock" at the University of Wisconsin Madison, voted to be the official "state bird".
Flamingos “flock” at the University of Wisconsin Madison, voted to be the official “state bird”.

“Today is the Day of the SBC Phoenix” — headline in the Lynchburg News and Advance.

The Lynchburg News and Advance beat me to it – the phoenix image, that is.  I already had a post written for today, but I hadn’t found the right phoenix image. Since a phoenix is not a real bird, the only pictures of phoenix are of Chinese kites or strange tattoos.   In my search for a phoenix image, I came upon the amazing history of the pink flamingos most of us recognize.   It turns out, these birds have something in common with Sweet Briar College.

The original "pink perfection" flamingos were sold as a pair - one looking down and the other boldly forward.
The original “pink perfection” flamingos were sold as a pair (photo: Smithsonian Magazine)

The original designer of the pink flamingo, Don Featherstone, sold them as a pair.  One was looking towards the ground and the other looked boldly forward.  Now you’re seeing where I get the flamingo image, right?  These two images reminded me of the state of Sweet Briar both in March of this year and today.

March 3, 2015

flamingos dead

On March 3, 2015, the President and Board of Sweet Briar College hung their heads in defeat and announced the College would close on August 25, 2015.  They laid out plans for student “teach outs” at other colleges, gave termination notices to faculty and staff and began a purging.  They cited a lack of interest, competition and crushing financial challenges.  They said, “No one chooses a woman’s college anymore.”

Union Products, the manufacturer of the “perfection in pink” flamingos made them for over 50 years, but in 2007 announced the factory would be forever closing.  They cited competition, lack of interest, financial challenges,  and said, “No one buys these anymore”.   Sound familiar?

Determined flamingo
Determined flamingo

Looking Ahead

Fortunately for the legacy of Sweet Briar College, there were some alumnae who looked boldly forward.  They saw a different future and it wasn’t going to be closing.  They honored the vision of the founder and protected her original intent through legal battles which ultimately were successful in the Virginia Supreme Court.  Settlement talks facilitated by the Attorney General allowed for a path forward.  Generous alumnae from all over the world flocked together to save Sweet Briar.

Flamingos flock together.
Flamingos flock together.

Fortune and generosity saved the “pink perfection” flamingos from extinction.  Cado, in New York, bought the company and returned the flamingos to production.   The Smithsonian magazine in an article about the iconic lawn ornament said, “But then, phoenixlike, the flamingo rose from its ashes (or rather, from its pool of molten plastic….”  People began having “flocking” fundraisers, college students used them in dorm rooms.  A market reemerged.   Don Featherstone even won an art prize for his design.

August 25, 2015

Today, August 25, 2015, the very day when the College was to close, students flock back to Sweet Briar College.  There are faculty, staff, community members and alumnae there to welcome them.  There are inspiring banners, welcome home signs, special treats and lots of pink and green.

Students welcomed home. Photo credit: Becky Johnston Lambert
Students welcomed home. Photo credit: Becky Johnston Lambert

Sweet Briar already has a mascot, a Vixen.  We didn’t have a Vixen in a suit when I was there, but I do find her very cute.  Seeing all that has been accomplished since March, 2015, Sweet Briar is deserving of the “Phoenix” symbol — a bird that rose from the ashes.   Given that it is hard to find a living phoenix or even a sculpted one, I think the story of the “pink perfection flamingo” also rising “phoenixlike” provides some inspiration for a mascot for the fight to save Sweet Briar.

I will never look at a pair of pink flamingos in the same way again.  Pink perfection indeed!

Flamingo in flight (image: National Geographic)
Flamingo in flight (image: National Geographic)

Story addendum – several people have shared with me that the late Jennifer Crispen, beloved coach and mentor, had flamingos in her yard at Sweet Briar.  They were both amusing and some said a silent form of protest (“Sweet Briar is more garden club than lawn ornament”).  Professor Alix Ingber sent me this photo.

Flamingos on the lawn of the late Jennifer Crispen.
Flamingos on the lawn of the late Jennifer Crispen.

Resources:

“History of the Pink Flamingo”  Smithsonian Magazine

Original Don Featherstone Pink Flamingo

Sweet Briar College Giving

SAVED! This photo was taken of me from a crowd that assembled during "the last" Reunion for a rousing cheer for the future.
SAVED! This photo was taken of me from a crowd that assembled during “the last” Reunion for a rousing cheer for the future.

Stacey Sickels Locke, CFRE, is a proud graduate of Sweet Briar College, Class of 1988.  She served as an employee of the College in the early 1990s working on the $25 million Campaign.  During that time, she solicited many leadership gifts which make up the current endowment. Since then, she has spent her career building support for higher education and the nonprofit community as a staff member and consultant for boards.  As a volunteer, she has served Sweet Briar since graduation as a fundraiser, admissions ambassador and now advocate for the #saveSweetBriar movement. She raises funds for Saving Sweet Briar, a charitable organization committed to the future of the College  She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), is affiliated (through the University of Maryland) with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and holds a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification from CFRE International.

Follow us....facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

Saving Sweet Briar: A Story of Alumnae Engagement (Part I of ???)

Photo captured of some of the Sweet Briar daughters (credit: Jennifer Phelps Stanton).
Photo captured of some of the Sweet Briar daughters (credit: Becky Johnston Lambert).

There is a generation of girls who want to attend a College that is special to their Moms…and they have seen her fight for it. There are a generation of sons (like mine) who might want their daughters to attend. There is a current generation of parents who want these kind of alumnae to be there for their daughters. There are students who want to be part of history. Colleges are special and part of our DNA. If anyone wonders why so many worked to sustain Sweet Briar College, I give you this… — from my Facebook post, July 29, 2015

Independent Schools, Colleges and Universities all strive for “engaged alumni/ae”.  There are conferences on “engagement”. There are departments for “Alumni Engagement” with teams of people working on the issue.  At my own University, there are senior staff trained in this area. As the national news began to cover the story of the efforts to save Sweet Briar College, my professional peers began asking me questions as they learned of my affiliation.  They would ask:

How did they do it?

How will they sustain all of these engaged alumnae?

How might I harness a little of this for my institution?

This blog post is about capturing the answers I’ve given so far.  As I told my industry publication who contacted me about writing an article this past spring, “It is really too soon to write an article about saving Sweet Briar.  We don’t yet know if she will be saved; however, once we do save her, there will be books, conferences, talks, videos, movies and who knows what else.”  I am happy to share my perspective which is just that – one perspective among thousands….

Why do I love Sweet Briar so much? 

Sometimes it isn’t until you lose something that you realize how precious it is to you.   Sometimes it takes facing that loss to tap into a love so fierce you will fight for it.  This is the kind of love that saved Sweet Briar College – and it is the kind of love that will sustain it moving forward.

I did not need the College to face closure to tap into my love for Sweet Briar.  My affection for Sweet Briar College began in my senior year of high school.  After moving many times and having four high schools (moving in the middle of every single year), the one thing I wanted for my College career was a place I could call home. Of course I wanted an exceptional education, but I also wanted to join a community.  I had not considered a woman’s college, but it considered…nudged…beckoned….invited and held out its friendly hand…to me.  When I began to receive mail and then personal notes and phone calls from the admissions counselors, invitations to local events for prospective students in my home town (Annapolis, Maryland), I felt Sweet Briar was reaching out to me.  I felt they knew me.  I reached back.  Like many of my fellow alumnae, my love affair was solidified when I drove up the long driveway through tall trees and reached the Admissions Office.  I was home.

3,000 acres, historic buildings, renovated state-of-the-art facilities.
3,000 acres, historic buildings, renovated state-of-the-art facilities.

Service is a given at Sweet Briar College.  Everyone does something to improve the campus while you are there.  Formally, it was being an Admissions Ambassador and a Fundraising volunteer.  I gave countless tours becoming the “face” of Sweet Briar for others like me (and unlike me, by the way, I worked particularly hard to bring these people to campus as I believed in the value of a diverse campus back then too).  At one point I kept track of how many acceptances I had (it numbered over 40 by my senior year).  Sonja Gruhl Dupourque, a dear friend, is one of those who stayed on my dorm room floor and became a lifelong friend (the Godmother to my eldest son as well).   I served as Resident Advisor, a member of the Student Government Association.   I served in the Student Government Association and helped lead the Chapel program after serving on the search committee for the then new Chaplain, The Rev. Susan Lehman.  Informally, I was tapped as a Q.V. in my sophomore year (a group that does kind things for their class) and that spirit has stayed with me since that time (my sons don’t realize those notes and candies I leave them stem from that experience). After graduation, I served as a class officer and a Reunion Chair and Agent – year after year after year.  As recently as our 25th Reunion, I was still doing something for Sweet Briar, serving on the Reunion Gifts Committee.

1988 at our 25th Reunion
1988 at our 25th Reunion

My friends who attend other schools sometimes marvel at this devotion and shake their heads.  They might have LIKED their College experience, but the kind of LOVE and devotion they see in me confuses them.  They didn’t know their professors personally.  They didn’t dine with them at meals and visit them as friends.  They left their College and rarely look back. Some of these same people are those who made pessimistic statements to me when they heard about Sweet Briar closing.  The good news for Sweet Briar (and small institutions like it) is this:  I am not unique at all.  There are thousands of other people like me who volunteered both on campus and from afar.

I loved Sweet Briar because it loved me.  I loved it because I saw it through the eyes of prospective students and donors.  I loved it because it became for me all of the relationships with friends, faculty and staff who became lifelong important people to me.

Ask your alumni – often – what your institution means to them.  

Give students an opportunity to serve.  Keep those students engaged as they become alumni.

A trickle became a stream which became a raging river which overflowed its banks and traveled around the globe... (photo credit: www.dreamstime.com Niagara Falls)
A trickle became a stream which became a raging river which overflowed its banks and traveled around the globe… (photo credit: www.dreamstime.com Niagara Falls)

What would a world be like without Sweet Briar?

Then came March 3, 2015.  After the President and Board of Sweet Briar announced their intentions to close, alumnae devotion swelled.  This wasn’t just like a small creek overflowing its banks and heading towards a raging river.  This was more like a damn where one bit of water finds its way through and then a torrent of water shooting out in all directions cascades through towns, valleys, countrysides, cities and even around the globe.   They say a “rising tide lifts all boats”.  In this case, the rising tide lifted all hearts, sights, minds and intentions.  This was NOT going to be a sinking ship.

There were those who sat back and rearranged deck chairs on the sinking Sweet Briar.  From their perspective, there was no hope.  There were students, faculty, staff and alumnae who were resigned.  From my perspective, the closer someone was to a staff member or board member, the more they could not see any other possibility.  I know what they were saying because I spoke to many of them on the phone.  Visiting campus for the “last” Reunion in May 2015, it was clear that the majority of campus was preparing for closure.  Hallways were lined with moving boxes, offices were empty, even the Chapel sacristy had gaping cupboards and overturned chalices.  It was a dismal scene.

The interesting thing is that this dynamic repeats itself everywhere.  There are always unhappy students, faculty, staff, alumni and others who see a half-empty glass where other see a half-full.  There are always the nay-sayers, the pessimists and those who actively work to tear down their institutions.   Particularly when there is a negative situation — someone being fired or stepping down from a board or being forcibly kicked out — it is very likely those people will slam the institution.  I call this the “slam the door” syndrome.  They cannot leave a place unless they are angry and they tear it down.  It happens in relationships too, sadly.

For students, only a select few were bold enough to speak out against the closure and to fight for what they thought was right.  I’ve spoken to a few of the students (and their parents) who endured during this time.  It was incredibly difficult to speak out for possibility and many of them were treated very badly for it.  Most students, according to these braves ones, aligned with the administration.  They prepared for the final days.

Fortunately, there were others within the College community who saw possibility where others saw dispair.  Some students hung banners and worked to raise awareness.  Faculty and staff took time to hold hands, comfort and even wage their own lawsuit for unfair termination.  Outside the Community, alumnae did all they could from writing op-eds to giving to providing moral support during legal proceedings.

Protests at Sweet Briar College
Protests at Sweet Briar College

Sweet Briar’s President and Board did not feel they could trust their alumni to be honest about the financial condition.  They had the opportunity with a Donor Insight Survey, but they elected not only not to be honest with alumnae, they also weren’t candid with the staff conducting the interviews — or the firm charged with conducting the survey.  They felt surely if they were honest, no one would give and they would be in an even worse position.  This is pretty commonly accepted in marketing and fundraising.  The belief seems to be that sending messages that are positive and filled with “excellence” is critical for people to invest.  The problem is, being honest with the very people who can help you is also critical.  In another blog I wrote about an institution I worked for who also faced possible closure – they chose to be honest.  It works.  Not only is honesty the best policy, crisis messages call people to action.

I once had a staff member who worked for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.  She was an exceptional fundraiser.  In one meeting she asked, “So when are we going to use a crisis message?”  This shook us all up.  We never did.  She pointed out that their Foundation solicits almost seven times a year and usually one or two of those appeals has a crisis message.  There is always something in any institution that deserves raising up for constituents.

What is your “crisis message” and how can you help your alumni see why their gift matters to your institution?

Sometimes testing the question, “What would a world be like without ________________, is important.” 

People tapping into how much they love a place engages them.  You must be honest and let your constituents know where problems exist — and how they can help solve them whether budget shortfalls or volunteer hours.  Chances are, your alumni will rise to the occasion.

We have nothing if we do not have activism.  Activism breeds engagement.  

Banners protesting the closure and leadership hung from balconies, the bell tower and buildings.
Banners protesting the closure and leadership hung from balconies, the bell tower and buildings.

Devotion took many creative forms.  Each person did what they could do and tapped into their unique set of time, talent and treasure.   For me, the logical thing to do was to raise funds.  This is what I do for a living and I figured I could do that for Saving Sweet Briar.  The problem was, we had no records.  Social media became the primary vehicle for communication and sharing.  I had no “tools of the trade” I was used to having. I had no lists, no research department, no annual giving or major gift data.  A group of faithful people recreated lists based on old magazines with giving records.  Someone who worked in the catering department found a table seating list from a former campaign dinner and thoughtfully entered those names onto a spreadsheet.

The Board of Saving Sweet Briar – an incredible group – set out to wage a legal battle and then began receiving funds.  Lots of funds. Most organizations have a gift processing department and database managers.  These dedicated volunteers did not have the infrastructure for gift accounting and they did an admirable job considering that.  Everyone did the best they could tapping into systems they knew.  The lawfirm which led the original suit provided important services beyond legal including accepting pledges and gifts in the early days.   It was and is a marvel to me how we managed to make it through those days.  It bordered on chaos and a lack of clarity, but with a pure motive we made calls, accepted gifts and loyal donors sent them.  Over and over again.

I sat down with my list and I started to make calls.  I reached people via Facebook messenger, web searches and friends of friends.  It truly was a remarkable process.  I wouldn’t know if people gave; however, unless they told me.  We had gifts going to a lawfirm, we had gifts made through Paypal, we had people sending funds to people they knew. I kept the people I called as a “portfolio” like I do at work sending them occasional updates.

Our efforts were led by a passionate woman, Mary Pope Hutson, who held weekly conference calls.  Over time, our numbers grew.  Thankfully, a fundraising firm, Alexander Haas offered to provide pro bono fundraising counsel.  This was a godsend knowing there were fundraisers handling contributions and the databases began to be combined.  I would – occasionally (okay more than occasionally), become concerned and agitated about the condition of things, but our extremely committed committee chair (who ultimately assumed the role on the new board as Development Committee) said to me several times:

We have got to keep our blinders on.  We have funds to raise and keys to get back.  It’s not going to be perfect.  Perfect is the enemy of progress.

I now have this printed on my computer at work.  It is so true.  There is always something to be worried about and nothing is ever perfect.

You don’t need perfect spreadsheets, amazing databases, super software or approved scripts to be a successful fundraiser.  You need passion, honesty and tenacity to just keep going.

Class of 1988 classmates - one all the way from Singapore -- attended an alternative reunion. Events were held all over the country.
Class of 1988 classmates – one all the way from Singapore — attended an alternative reunion. Events were held all over the country.

Events

Events popped up everywhere from small towns to big cities to around the globe.  Never mind we didn’t have complete mailing lists.  Never mind we needed every event  to be a fundraiser with an overt “invitation to give” (this is usually something people try to avoid).  Never mind we often didn’t have enough “proper response time”.  The events were held and they were successful.  A whole team of volunteers worked to coordinate these events and get them published so that people could attend events wherever they were.

One event in Atlanta raised over $1 million organized by local volunteers with special guest, Teresa Pike Tomlinson, Mayor of Columbus Georgia (and now Chair of the Board for Sweet Briar College).

Events were important.  They built momentum.  They got the word out.  They got people feeling they were part of something bigger than themselves.  Most importantly, they forged new relationships and friendship.

People affiliating around a cause they believe in is important.  Providing opportunities for gathering is so important. Using events to provide updates is critical.

Volunteer Coordination

Beyond my Committee, there were many other committees at work – informally and formally.  Each of these committees had someone at the helm who cascaded messages on a regular basis.  Evangeline Taylor, an amazing woman, agreed to be a coordinator of coordinators!  Regular updates with news releases, legal updates and upcoming events were sent to State Representatives, Class Representatives, Committee Chairs, Event Chairs.  Some people wore multiple hats like my classmate, Katie Keough Widener.  She started out as a Class leader, then took on the state of Pennsylvania and then joined the Major Gift Task Force!

The saving Sweet Briar Major Gift Task Force meets for the first time in person.
The saving Sweet Briar Major Gift Task Force meets for the first time in person.

The question now arises – what to do with all of these volunteers?  Life will rush in and fill the places Sweet Briar once occupied. One of the suggestions I made to the board and College leadership was to consider hiring volunteer coordinators or alumnae engagement professionals among the first to be hired.

Formal structures will exist, of course, but not everyone will be able to join those structures.  Committees like Admissions and Development of Boards often include non board members, but there usually are not volunteer structures around academic programs, buildings and grounds, etc.   If you do have strong volunteers who have proven themselves, it might be worth personally asking them to step forward to serve so that you don’t lose them.  Asking people for their “recommendations for strong candidates” sends the message to a volunteer that they must not be needed anymore – or their efforts didn’t meet the criteria of a formal committee.

Once leadership structures exist organically, try if possible to continue them.

Once volunteers are engaged, try to find a way to allow them to continue.

As of this writing, Sweet Briar has just conducted a series of “work days” where alumnae came to paint, weed, repair.  These Habitat for Humanity-like days engaged women and their entire families.  One volunteer wrote to me after returning:

“Doing something physical for Sweet Briar – seeing spaces become more beautiful – was cathartic.  I want to do it every year.”

Family Affair

Up until March 3, Sweet Briar was an important part of MY life, but I wouldn’t say it was on the radar of my children, cousins, husband, community.

As my friends, family, neighbors and community began to pay attention to news media and the legal fight, they began to express support for Sweet Briar, Women’s Education, Liberal Arts Education, the list goes on….

Events were held that included families for picnics, bike rides, museum visits.

Some spouses and partners REALLY rolled up their sleeves (mine included) to support Sweet Briar from financial support to doing legal research.  One couple I met along the way who inspired me are Christine Bump and Elias Papasavvas.

Are you engaging the families of your alumni?  Are there family-friendly activities for them?  Are you including spouses and partners in your fundraising calls?

Children of alumnae sold lemonade, donuts, cookies and art to benefit their Mom's College. In this photo, Joan Dabney Clinker's daughter sells a donut to campus security.
Children of alumnae sold lemonade, donuts, cookies and art to benefit their Mom’s College. In this photo, Joan Dabney Clinker’s daughter sells a donut to campus security.

SWEET WORK DAYS = SWEET SUCCESS

There must be a special section on work days because this truly is an example of going “above and beyond” for a College and engaging at the deepest level.  Alumnae came from all over the country to paint, mulch, power wash and provide special touches to make campus the most welcoming it could be for incoming students.  Jen Phelps Stanton and Debbie Thurman, local and dedicated alumnae, helped organize volunteers.  A post on the Virginia Chapter website read:

Alumnae, family and friends came together over the past few weeks to spruce up the campus prior to the students’ return under the guidance of Jen Staton and Debbie Thurman. Tom Connors, VP of finance, estimated that 4200 man-hours were donated resulting in an approximate $60,000 savings in maintenance costs for the college!

You Have to Have Leadership

People don’t always like to be led, but they need it. The Saving Sweet Briar board assembled itself organically quickly after the March 3rd announcement to both fight an important legal fight as well as to raise funds.  These women will forever be an important part of Sweet Briar College.  They are just as important as the founder, Indiana Fletcher Williams, in terms of creating a vision and pointing to a future.  Indiana Fletcher Williams pointed to a vision of a College in perpetuity.  The Saving Sweet Briar Board stepped in when that perpetuity was threatened.

There are other leaders who stepped forward to help launch additional legal suits and provide support to those who led them.  Without these leaders – both self appointed and supported with grass roots support – Sweet Briar would not likely be open today.  Initially, everyone looked to one group for leadership.  In time, people did what they saw needed doing.  This level of engagement was self-appointed and critical for the ultimate success.  If everyone sat back and waited for direction, we likely would not have reached the successful conclusion in the end.

The Saving Sweet Briar Board always said it was a temporary one.  This must have been difficult for them and they deserve admiration for seeing this vision.  From the beginning, they simply asked to have a voting majority of the Sweet Briar Board.  Their intention was to become unnecessary because the goal was to keep the College open and channel the support there.  Ultimately, the Board who voted for closure all resigned.  Saving Sweet Briar and the parties to the other law suits provided recommendations for new Board members through mediation.

It is hard for me to find a replicable instance of this for another institution.  Except perhaps to say – don’t be afraid to embrace an organic leadership structure that emerges.  It may be that leadership structure will have an energy you need and become the fuel for your current leadership.

It is worth noting that the Alumnae Association of Sweet Briar is entirely revamping itself.  They realized that their previous relationship of being completely a part of the College resulted in tensions and difficulty when the College elected to close.  Their independence is a strength.

It Takes a Village:  “Town & Gown” Relationships

Institutions often forget that they have neighbors.  It is very important to maintain close ties to the community and region nearby.  These neighbors are impacted by students who may live in off-campus housing.  The elected officials may prove critical at some point.

For Sweet Briar, it was the County of Amherst who came to its rescue.  The County Attorney was the person who originally filed suit to stop the closure and who advocated for protecting donor’s rights.  The Mayor of Amherst wrote amicus briefs regarding how the town and the College had shared infrastructure, investment and both would be harmed if the College closed.

Take time to get to know your elected officials and community members.  Identify the faculty and staff who live nearby.  Consider days when the community can visit to interact with your student body.  Keeping the relationships strong will avoid the divisive issues of “town vs. gown” which many communities face.

Amherst and Sweet Briar have a shared history and future (I explore these relationships in my blog “What’s In a Seal”).

Image courtesy Central Virginia Sweet Briar Alumni & Friends Chapter
Image courtesy Central Virginia Sweet Briar Alumni & Friends Chapter

Social Media

Saving Sweet Briar logo and the website www.savingsweetbriar.com became important symbols and community builders.
Saving Sweet Briar logo and the website www.savingsweetbriar.com became important symbols and community builders.

I often tell people, if it were not for social media, Sweet Briar College would not have been saved.  If this closure had been announced before social media, the alumnae and friends would have had no way to mobilize so quickly.

Brooke Linville, Saving Sweet Briar Board member, created the website and it became a portal to organize:  legal updates, recent news media, testimonials, fundraising updates, links to events.   The website was critical for communicating — especially since the College was busy posting closure messages daily.

Other channels of social media were also critical.  Facebook, Twitter, Linked In, Reddit, Instagram, Pinterest.  There truly was not a form of social media that was not used for the benefit of Sweet Briar.  In fact, Forbes Magazine launched a contest based on twitter posts resulting in Sweet Briar being awarded the “top small college”. 

Facebook became a place where people could organize themselves, vent, research, post events, inform.  As of this writing, there are over 20 different sub-pages fueling the passion and commitment for Sweet Briar.  Students, parents, faculty, staff, alumnae and community could bond together over shared issues, concerns and hopes for the future.  Eventually, many of these channels split into further categories.  Some even became their own websites such as the strategic planning work, www.sbc2point0.com.

Just as in any group, human nature plays a part.  Some people get emotional and angry about things.  Some people like to keep the peace.  Some like to follow the leader.  Some are naturally suspicious.  Some see their role as policing.  Eventually, not all of this energy could exist in the same place and individuals created conversations and pages.  Just as there are those who might have a chat on their way to class or over the phone in private, social media provided a place where the dialogue of saving Sweet Briar reached a fever pitch. Having received invitations to the majority of the groups formed, I can say we needed everyone and every group to get to a successful conclusion.  Also just as in any group, stereotyping of these groups also took place in addition to not understanding and pointing fingers.  There isn’t one group of which I was a part where I agreed with everything, but I felt I was of more use being there than not.

The question is now, do we still need those groups?  I think we do.  The question for your institution may be, to what degree do you allow and foster the organic energy of your constituents — or do you try to control all channels of social media?

Future Engagement

As I write this post, students are driving to campus and faculty and staff are there to welcome them.  Each day, smiling faces of returning students are shared.  Colleges released coaches and faculty from contracts so that they could return.  Colleges released students from enrollment contracts so that Sweet Briar could welcome them home.  These acts of friendship will be long remembered  from Hollins College, Agnes Scott and many others.

The College announces “appointments” for staff positions on a regular basis.  In order to open its doors, positions had to be filled quickly.  The leadership evidently feels that there is not time for national searches (which can take weeks and months in some institutions of higher education).   A combination of volunteers and appointed staff fill key roles in Admissions, Development and administration.  These roles are temporary, according to President Stone, and in time there will be national searches to secure permanent professionals for the long term.  Some of these interim candidates will become tomorrow’s internal ones and their service may be longer than a short-term assignment.

Just as in the early days of Saving Sweet Briar, there were no rules or a playbook to follow.  These are unprecedented times for the College.  Those closest to those in leadership know what the needs are and who is available to get in their car, take residence in one of the homes on campus and get to work.  Those further afield stand back to see what role they may play for the future – or not.

Life does and will rush in to fill the time that alumnae gave to Sweet Briar.  Formal positions are not going to be available for all.  Volunteer positions may also not be available either as the Colleges shifts into more traditional Board Committee structures.

Yet, there are signs that the engagement will continue.  One of the first Admissions positions held by much-admired Marcia Thom Kaley directly focuses on the role alumnae will play in the future.  From an Alumnae Admissions posting:

Dear AARs – We will be up and running shortly – I so very much look forward to working with you as the new Director of Alumnae Admissions Relations! It is a title I covet – be gentle with me to begin with – we are still actively working hard on the incoming classes of 2015-2016 – we will VERY soon slam into action with regard to our recruiting schedule for 2016-2017 – home run, my friends – home run!!!

It remains to be seen whether returning faculty will be as open to alumnae engagement in their respective fields.  Faculty members do not usually have a team of professionals wishing to advise, revamp, change, etc.  Yet, there are hundreds involved in key areas such as STEM and other fields.  Perhaps Sweet Briar will adopt a Program Advisory Model that some Universities employ.  One thing is for sure, everything at Sweet Briar will change and the curricula must as well.

For me, I’ve spent the last few weeks confirming pledges.  All of the different gift accounting processes and procedures needed to be firmed up to hand over the most accurate records to the College.  I counted up one afternoon 188 phone, email and in-person contacts on the list assigned to me.  The final settlement agreement payment is slated for September 1 and the efforts are on track to make it.  I must admit to feeling a bit bereft as the tide ebbs back from this high level of engagement and dedication.

I am incredibly proud of Sweet Briar.  We have made the national news and overturned a decision some thought was fatal.  It has been an honor to serve alongside volunteers working so hard.  Some volunteers around me are tapped for staff roles, board roles or other official duties. My role along with many alumnae is uncertain.

The keys have been handed over.  A new President is at the helm.  A new Board leads.  What is the role for alumnae?  That is for the future to decide and bold leadership to craft.  In the meantime, President Stone’s comment probably sums it up:

At Sweet Briar, “impossible” is just another problem to solve.

SAVED! This photo was taken of me from a crowd that assembled during "the last" Reunion for a rousing cheer for the future.
SAVED! This photo was taken of me from a crowd that assembled during “the last” Reunion for a rousing cheer for the future.

Stacey Sickels Locke, CFRE, is a proud graduate of Sweet Briar College, Class of 1988.  She served as an employee of the College in the early 1990s working on the $25 million Campaign.  During that time, she solicited many leadership gifts which make up the current endowment. Since then, she has spent her career building support for higher education and the nonprofit community as a staff member and consultant for boards.  As a volunteer, she has served Sweet Briar since graduation as a fundraiser, admissions ambassador and now advocate for the #saveSweetBriar movement. She raises funds for Saving Sweet Briar, a charitable organization committed to the future of the College  She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), is affiliated (through the University of Maryland) with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and holds a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification from CFRE International.

Follow us....facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!

Perpetuity Society: An Idea for Sweet Briar and Beyond (I’m in!)

In Perpetuity....
In Perpetuity….

There are many leaders who worked tirelessly in the effort to save Sweet Briar College.  Christine Bump, JD, MPH, Sweet Briar College Class of 2000, is one of those heroes.  I met Christine shortly before we both appeared on a WJLA TV7 interview in May, 2015.  My husband and I had the pleasure of meeting Christine and her husband, Elias Papasavvas, at Reunion, 2015.  This is a power couple if there ever was one and they will play a pivotal role in years ahead .  Christine and her husband have made a perpetual commitment to Sweet Briar College.  I share it with you here as a guest post and for the professionals at the College to consider as they look to the future.  I love the idea of a Perpetuity Society as it demonstrates the kind of commitment I feel for Sweet Briar College as well as the type of relationship we will need with alumnae and friends in the years ahead.

P.S.  I have had Sweet Briar College in my will and was on a list to be buried on Monument Hill.  I have made a commitment  – a stretch commitment more than I have ever pledged — to Sweet Briar College over the next five years.  I pledge to give to Sweet Briar perpetually.  

perpetuity

ˌpər-pə-ˈt(y)ü-ət-ē/

noun: perpetuity

  1. a thing that lasts forever or for an indefinite period, in particular.
  1. 
the state or quality of lasting forever.

Since we were thrust into the battle to save our beloved Sweet Briar, much has been written about the word “perpetuity.” Indiana Fletcher Williams demanded in her will that her land be used in perpetuity to educate young women like her daughter Daisy. Over the past few months, thousands of excellent ideas have been presented regarding fundraising, loyalty, and commitment, in order to ensure that our Sweet Briar College “not merely endure, but prevail,” as Judge James W. Updike, Jr. noted in his courtroom remarks on June 23, 2015. On that day, which Amherst County has already commemorated as “Sweet Briar College Day,” he blessed the settlement accepted by all parties to keep our College open. When it was noted during the hearing that the actual text of the agreement is “for one year,” Elliott J. Schuchardt, the attorney representing a group of Sweet Briar students, parents, and alumnae pro-bono, replied, “This is not for merely one year. It is for perpetuity!” The entire courtroom erupted in applause.

Today the flame is strong. But once the courtroom doors are closed, the settlement final, and everyone has returned to work, how will we ensure the continued commitment, passion, and fervor of alumnae, in perpetuity? For a new chapter of perpetuity at Sweet Briar College, we would like to propose the establishment of:

“The Sweet Briar College Perpetuity Society.”

Indiana Fletcher Williams established Sweet Briar College through her will as a perpetual memorial to her daughter, Daisy.
Indiana Fletcher Williams established Sweet Briar College through her will as a perpetual memorial to her daughter, Daisy.

The Sweet Briar College Perpetuity Society would be for all alumnae who accomplish two things: (1) donate every single year, without interruption, from the year of their graduation until their passing; and (2) include Sweet Briar College in their will (which today is recognized as the Indiana Fletcher Williams Society). Living members who give annually without interruption since graduation would comprise the membership and they would continue as members so long as they do not interrupt their giving.

The “Founding Members” of the Perpetuity Society should be those alumnae who already satisfy both criteria. However, if there has been one benefit to the near closing of Sweet Briar College, it has been the rally of alumnae who were stunned by the March 3, 2015 announcement. Many have admitted that their giving to the College has been sporadic, but when they heard their beloved alma mater was going to close, their passion was unleashed. The promise to continue to give to Sweet Briar is strong; pledges for the next five to ten years have already been made. Therefore, upon the creation of the Perpetuity Society, the Founding Members would invite all alumnae who have donated this year, to the Saving Sweet Briar Movement, to join as “New Members.”

Angel over Daisy William's monument.
Angel over Daisy William’s monument.

You may ask why we need another giving society. The Perpetuity Society would not be based on the amount of money given. Whether an alumna gives $5.00 a year or $5,000,000.00 a year, the amount does not matter. Also, Sweet Briar has the Pink Rose Society and the Silver Rose Society, recognizing giving over a period of years, i.e., at least 10 out of 24 years. Membership in the Perpetuity Society would demonstrate an unfailing annual commitment to Sweet Briar, year in and year out. The Perpetuity Society would not abolish any other giving society; giving amounts, giving over a period of years, and including Sweet Briar College in your will should continue to be recognized by the existing societies and circles. But, the establishment of the Perpetuity Society could encourage the continuation of the momentum of giving and loyalty we have now to ensure Sweet Briar prevails in perpetuity.

Sweet Briar rose - known for its thorns is also a symbol of the College whose motto is "She who has earned the rose may bear it"
Sweet Briar rose – known for its thorns is also a symbol of the College whose motto is “She who has earned the rose may bear it”

In recognition of how important Sweet Briar’s perpetuity is, the Perpetuity Society should have leaders and activities beyond the walls of the College’s Development Office. It should not just be a list, it should be a membership of those who show the ultimate support: a commitment to Sweet Briar’s mission of turning young women into leaders through stellar education, in perpetuity.

Daisies surround the monument to Daisy Williams during the Founder's Day ceremony, 2015.
Daisies surround the monument to Daisy Williams during the Founder’s Day ceremony, 2015.

 

The Sweet Briar Perpetuity Society. In honor of our College’s history. In remembrance of the battle that saved her. In resolve to ensure Sweet Briar thrives, in perpetuity.

Yours truly,

Christine Bump, Class of 2000 – Elias Papasavvas, Proud Husband

Christine Bump, Sweet Briar College Class of 2000
Christine Bump, Sweet Briar College Class of 2000

Christine P. Bump, JD, MPH, is a proud graduate of Sweet Briar College. She was a Presidential Medalist in the Class of 2000, and earned her professional and graduate degrees from Emory University’s School of Law and Rollins School of Public Health, respectively. She practiced food and drug law for nine years in Washington, DC, and in 2013, was selected as a Rising Star by Washington, DC Super Lawyers. Christine has supported Sweet Briar financially and through volunteer hours every year since graduating, and is excited to continue that support.

You might also consider reading this post:   We Saved Sweet Briar – Now What?

To learn more about saving Sweet Briar College, visit the Saving Sweet Briar website.

To learn about plans for the future, visit Sweet Briar 2.0.

Stacey Sickels Locke, CFRE, is a proud graduate of Sweet Briar College, Class of 1988.  She served as an employee of the College in the early 1990s working on the $25 million Campaign.  During that time, she solicited many leadership gifts which make up the current endowment and she feels a sense of duty that those donations are not used for the closure of the College or for any other purposes than the donors intended. Since then, she has spent her career building support for higher education and the nonprofit community as a staff member and consultant for boards.  As a volunteer, she has served Sweet Briar since graduation as a fundraiser, admissions ambassador and now advocate for the #saveSweetBriar movement. She raises funds for Saving Sweet Briar, a charitable organization committed to the future of the College  She is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), is affiliated (through the University of Maryland) with the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and holds a Certified Fund Raising Executive (CFRE) certification from CFRE International.

Someone caught this photo of me while leading a group "Holla, holla" at Reunion, 2015.

 

Follow us....facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedinyoutubeinstagramby feather
Share this....facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinby featherThanks for sharing!