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Securing FIT's Future

The development team: Duncan, center, with Oldehoff and Culver. Not pictured: Guranowski and Hervas. 

It's All About Relationships

These days, alumni and friends of FIT can find lots of ways to participate in the life of the college—whether it’s “liking” the alumni page on Facebook, attending a campus event, sponsoring an internship, or endowing a scholarship. FIT is working to create a variety of channels for alumni and other key audiences to connect with the college and with one another. It’s all about building relationships essential to securing FIT’s future.

Spearheading these efforts is Dawn B Duncan, vice president for Development and Alumni Relations and executive director of the FIT Foundation. Duncan’s team includes Terry Culver, director of development; Kevin Hervas, director of corporate and foundation relations; Vicki Guranowski, director of special events; and Allison Oldehoff, manager of alumni and faculty relations. They’re strengthening ties with alumni, industry, and other supporters, and matching them with opportunities to contribute time, expertise, and resources—opportunities that not only benefit FIT and its students, but reflect the donors’ values and interests.

In the past, public colleges didn’t focus much on fundraising, but now they have no choice. Public funding for higher education has decreased as costs continue to skyrocket, and private support—from industry, alumni, and other sources—enables public colleges like FIT to undertake projects like new buildings and campus renovations. Scholarship funding is Duncan’s first priority. “Financial need should never be a reason not to attend,” she says. Tuition remains relatively affordable, a fact she can share with would-be donors: “Your gift to FIT supports five students, not one, as it would at a private university.”

When it comes to development, she says, there’s no difference between public and private institutions. Before FIT, Duncan was vice president for development at NYU’s Polytechnic Institute, assistant dean for development and alumni relations at NYU’s Steinhardt School, and director of major gifts at the University of Florida Foundation. In every case, she says, it was about creating and sustaining a “culture of giving.” FIT is now developing that tradition.

Obviously, fundraising is essential, but development goes beyond that; it’s often about creating community pride. Last January, Alumni Relations invited alumni and friends to gather in a local pub to watch the final episode of the reality-TV design competition, The Fashion Show. When Jeffrey Williams, Fashion Design ’09, won, the crowd erupted in cheers—the FIT equivalent of the big football win.

More events are on the horizon, to build connections and promote the power of the FIT alumni network— 100,000 strong. In the past, Duncan says, “Alumni often didn’t come back to the mother ship. We’re going to change that.”

Get Connected 

Recognizing that strong relationships with alumni are critical to the college’s future, FIT’s Alumni Relations Office offers new and fun ways to connect with your alma mater. Here’s a sampling:

» Want to help students learn about the industry? Take part in a professional “speed networking” event or “shadowing” program.

» Looking to market your handcrafted designs? Join the FIT alumni group on Etsy.com.

» Interested in catching up with classmates? Four regional reunions, in New York City, Washington, DC, Florida, California, and the first-ever international alumni reception in Tokyo, are being planned.

» If you’d like to support alumni efforts, consider making a gift to the annual fund.

Find out about these and other opportunities through alumnirelations@fitnyc.edu or by connecting with FIT Alumni on Facebook and Twitter.

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