Karl Clauss’s forthcoming entrance as Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations coincides with the start of a particularly exciting time for the college. Clauss will occupy a prominent position at the helm of Swarthmore’s upcoming capital campaign; a comprehensive philanthropic effort intended to raise the funds necessary to realize the school’s ambitious strategic initiatives.
Former President Al Bloom set the goals for the approaching campaign in Dec. 2006, after the successful conclusion of “The Meaning of Swarthmore,” the college’s previous campaign that raised $245 million.
The approaching campaign, projected to begin in 2014, will be required to raise $400 million to fulfill the demands of the strategic plan. These initiatives were enumerated in the booklet “Strategic Directions for Swarthmore College,” drafted in December 2011 by the Strategic Planning Council and publicly released last Monday.
Clauss’s roles as VP were set forth in the final position description for the job issued last September; “Reporting to President Chopp, the Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations provides the strategic direction and leadership for all of the College’s development and alumni relations functions and oversees a staff of 46.”
Serving as a major gifts fundraiser along with Chopp, Clauss will be expected to build and maintain strong relationships with the college’s most generous donors.
He will lead a systematic process of communication, identification, cultivation and recognition intended to appeal to the Swarthmore community while promoting a broader base of philanthropic support for the school.
Clauss will also seek to heighten alumni engagement by strengthening relationships with graduates and addressing the unique interests, expectations and motivations of alumni.
The strategic plan describes the upcoming capital campaign as one “designed to excite donors, encouraging them to engage with us to achieve our vision for the future, and to commemorate the College’s sesquicentennial,” as the campaign will coincide with the 150th anniversary of the college’s founding.
Professor Chopp outlined the standard progression for a collegiate capital campaign in a recent interview, describing the initial stages as a gradual “process of hypothesis testing.”
From these initial stages, the more concrete elements of the plan are formulated.
Starting with a careful and comprehensive analysis of donor capabilities, the most lucrative donations, comprising between 80 and 90 percent of funds raised, are sought first.
The campaign’s progress will not be made public until its goal is halfway met. Campaigns usually occur over the space of five to seven years.
Challenges confronting Clauss in the approaching capital campaign include an uncertain national financial climate, persistently rising costs of higher education, and heightened skepticism in America towards the viability and relevance of the residential liberal arts experience in the modern world.
Despite the significant challenges posed by the nature of 21st century higher education, Clauss has great reason to be optimistic. Swarthmore boasts an exceptionally diverse, robust and loyal body of over 19,000 alumni, many of whom are leaders in a wide array of professional fields.
The figures exhibit the strong loyalty of college alumni. Within the last year, donor retention rate has remained stable at 84%, while giving from parents to the Parents Fund has increased 21% and the number of alumni donors in the ten most recent classes increased by 11%. Development efforts in the 2010-11 year saw the Annual Fund increase by 4.9%, with over half of all alumni participating.
In addition, the alumni community maintains a rich network of connections through the numerous events and activities facilitated by the 18 regional Connections, as well as the over 1,000 active alumni volunteers who work in admissions, career services and externship capacities.
It is in this capacity that Clauss’s role in effectively connecting with alumni will be brought to the fore.
Clauss has responded eagerly to his pivotal role in this substantial undertaking.
“Swarthmore is embarking upon an exciting new chapter as President Chopp leads the community in implementing a dynamic and forward-thinking strategic plan. I am honored to partner with a committed board of managers and talented staff to support this effort with an ambitious campaign,” he said.
Clauss will be arriving at the college to begin work on March 1.