Development, Alumni Engagement to become Advancement

The unit currently known as the Division of Development and Alumni Engagement is gearing up for the public phase of Western Carolina University’s comprehensive fundraising campaign by making some internal changes aimed at better positioning the campaign for success.

In addition to the recent appointment of an assistant vice chancellor and wrapping up searches that are currently underway to fill vacant development director positions, the division will be changing the sign on the front door of its suite. Effective July 1, the unit will be known simply as Advancement.

The new name for the unit was approved recently by the university’s Executive Council and is based on a recommendation after a comprehensive administrative program review completed by Washburn and McGoldrick, a national consulting firm that has worked with educational institutions across the country.

The new, more succinct name “Advancement” is designed to recognize the change in leadership last year from an associate vice chancellor to a permanent vice chancellor and to more accurately represent the comprehensive nature of the role of the unit, said Lori Lewis, the division’s vice chancellor.

“We are not only responsible for alumni engagement and fundraising but also outreach and communication to all constituents about the impact of gifts as well as the importance of financially supporting and being involved with WCU,” Lewis said.

The division’s areas of responsibilities also consist of gift receipting and gift reporting policies and procedures; research and prospect management and tracking; all of advancement services, including oversight of the constituent and alumni database; donor relations, which includes acknowledgement, recognition, reporting to and stewardship of all donors; and strategic donor and prospect engagement events.

With the change of its name, WCU’s division will be better aligned with its counterparts across the University of North Carolina system, Lewis said. “Consistency is important for the system, and Western Carolina and our development and alumni engagement team need to be on the same level as their peers,” she said.

Although the university once had a Division of Advancement and External Affairs, the change of name for the unit does not reflect a return to that old organizational structure, Lewis said. WCU’s external affairs functions – including marketing, communications, public relations, government relations and special events – which were part of the previous division that was dissolved in 2013, remain under the executive leadership of Chief of Staff Melissa Canady Wargo in the Chancellor’s Division.

Lewis joined WCU last June to lead the university’s fundraising efforts and serve as the senior development and alumni engagement officer.

The university currently is in the leadership phase – also known as the “quiet phase” – of a comprehensive fundraising effort to increase the number of endowed merit- and need-based scholarships to provide financial assistance for students. Although it is in the so-called quiet phase, WCU Chancellor David O. Belcher has jokingly referred to the campaign as “the worst-kept secret in Cullowhee.”

As part of that leadership phase, the consulting firm is working with Lewis and other members of her division to determine a final goal and timetable for the campaign.