Fundraising, Greensboro College a family affair

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — On the way to the beach for family vacations, Fred Jones often would stop to visit friends and supporters of Greensboro College, where he worked as director of development.

At the time, his young daughter did not understand the need for interrupting the drive.

But now, as director of advancement at Greensboro Day School, Anne Jones Hurd recognizes the value her father placed on building relationships with donors.

“It’s not an eight-to-five job,” she says. “It’s a way of life.”
Greensboro College and fundraising are ties that bind together Hurd’s extended family.

She, as well as her mother, brother and daughter, are graduates of the school.

Her mother, Gene Edwards Jones, is immediate past president of the school’s alumni association.

Her father just joined its board of trustees.

And her daughter works in its development office.

Jones worked at Greensboro College from 1962 until he retired in 1985, although he since has retired from subsequent careers, first as a part-time sales representative, then as a part-time test administrator for the federal government.

In 1966, when Jones moved to the school’s development office from its business office, annual fundraising totaled roughly $15,000 to $20,000, the development office employed only Jones plus an alumni-affairs director and two secretaries, and the office had no computer.

This fiscal year, the goal for the annual fund is $350,000, and the school is in the midst of a campaign that started in 2010 to increase its annual giving to $4 million from $2 million by the 2013-14 school year, when it will celebrate its 175th anniversary.

The office of institutional advancement now employs 12 people, including Kelly Flora, Hurd’s daughter.

In 1967, when Hurd was in the first grade, her family stayed overnight in her father’s office during an ice storm that had cut off heat to their house.

Now, Flora works in an office across the hall from what had been her grandfather’s office.

A program coordinator, Flora is responsible for opening mail, recording gift checks in a database and depositing them, and making sure contact information for donors is accurate in the constituent-relationship-management software system the office uses.

She also conducts research on prospective donors and assists with fundraising events, where she gets a chance to meet donors and college employees, many of whose names she had heard from her mother and grandfather.

“I get to finally meet people I’ve heard about and heard stories about,” she says.

Jones says he is delighted his daughter and granddaughter have taken up the family business.

And Hurd says her daughter is getting good training about the value for fundraising from back-office work such as research and data entry.

“You’re only as good as the information you have,” she says.

Equally critical for professional fundraisers, she says, is working behind the scenes.

Jones says that when Hurd began her fundraising career, he told her to remember that “in this business, you must not care who gets the credit.”

Hurd, who regularly talks by phone with her father, asking for feedback and ideas on her work with donors, says the advice she received from him years ago has served her well.

“What I learned is that listening is the most important communications skill,” she says.

Her father often would tell her “it’s never about us, it’s never about the advancement people,” she says. “It’s about the donors and what they’ve done for the school or what they can do for the school. That’s where the listening comes in.”

At a recent visit with prospective donors about a campaign for a new middle school at Greensboro Day School, for example, the donors did not seem “inspired by bricks and mortar,” Hurd says.

But as she listened to the donors, whose children already had graduated from the school, it was clear their interest was science.

“We listened to what their vision was for science, what they would like to see for science in the middle school,” she says. “They got excited talking about it and thinking about.”

And now, she says, the couple is considering a gift to the campaign.

In addition to Greensboro College and fundraising, education also is a common thread for Hurd’s extended family

Her brother, mother and two cousins are teachers, as were her grandmother and uncle.

At family gatherings, the teachers like to say they’re in the classroom “doing the important work,” Hurd says, and then they good-naturedly ask the fundraisers, “What good are you?”

“And we love to say to them, ‘Yes, but we do what we do,’” she says, “’and we try to do it well so you can do what you do well.’”

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