Bennett College’s Viral Fundraising Campaign Avoids Event Horizon

Fundraising volunteers Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash
Fundraising volunteers Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

Based in Boston, Dr. Ari Betof is the president and founder of Organizational Sustainability Consulting, a company that works with educational and nonprofit organizations to optimize operational efficiency. Dr. Ari Betof works to ensure financial sustainability, consistent revenue growth, and effective public relations.

In the 2019 Medium article “#StandWithBennett: A Real-Time Case Study in Avoiding the Event Horizon,” Dr. Betof examined Bennett College’s successful efforts to meet a Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) fundraising goal of $5 million.

Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, stands as one of only two historically black colleges nationwide that serve an all-women student body. After struggling with financial insolvency issues, the college was placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 2016. In late 2018, SACSCOC took a vote that threatened to end Bennett’s accreditation in two months.

With only 50 days until a February deadline, Bennett College effectively launched a #StandWithBennett campaign that went viral and was jump-started by a pair of half-million-dollar gifts from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and the Papa John’s Foundation. With four days to go, $3 million was still needed, yet a late flurry of contributions led to the college raising $8.2 million by the deadline. In this way, an institution that fulfills a vital societal function was able to push back a looming “event horizon” and regain fiscal solvency. Betof notes that whether this progress will be a short-term repreave or a path forward to ongoing organizational health is yet to be determined.

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