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GRAND RAPIDS — Other than the fact that they both are institutions of higher learning, what is it that Calvin College has in common with Harvard University?
Or Grand Valley State University with Stanford?
Or Hope College with Notre Dame?
Well, the development offices of all three local colleges were winners — along with their counterparts at Harvard, Stanford and Notre Dame — of what are called Circle of Excellence in Education Fund-Raising Awards.
The awards program is based on blind judging by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), a professional organization for people working in alumni relations, communications and development.
CASE conferred the awards early this month at its international assembly in Chicago.
This was the first set of CASE awards based on a review of the last three years of fund-raising by American colleges and universities.
All told, CASE conferred 47 awards upon universities, colleges and several private secondary schools.
According to Calvin’s vice president for development Robert Berkhof, it’s no accident that of the 47 award recipients, three lie in West Michigan.
“West Michigan," he said, “is an amazingly generous community.
“Philanthropy is something that is a deep part of this area. I know that we work hard at Calvin to communicate our mission and why we hope donors will support us in our work. I know that we raise funds with honesty and integrity.
“But I also know that being part of a supportive community helps us a great deal in our work. And I don't think it's an accident that of 47 colleges and universities across the country that won this award, three are within 35 miles of each other here.”
The awards are part of the CASE – Wealth ID Awards for Educational Fund Raising.
Calvin was one of four schools saluted as a best performer in the CASE category of Private Comprehensive Institutions, while Grand Valley was one of four schools named best in the Public Comprehensive Institutions category.
Hope was one of seven schools highlighted for overall improvement in the category of Private Liberal Arts Institutions.
Just for the record, Harvard, Notre Dame and Stanford were the three winners in the category of private research and doctoral institutions.
Each of the award-winning development offices has been asked to prepare an outline of its development program for other CASE members to use as a model.
Other familiar names among CASE award recipients are Amherst College, Washington and Lee University, Ohio State University and the Universities of Oklahoma and Virginia.
CASE is headquartered in Washington, D.C., and a few years ago opened an office in London, England, whence it is extending its reach into European universities.
The organization indicated that a panel of judges who are volunteers from the field, selected the award recipients based on the type of institution, patterns of alumni giving, patterns of giving by donor categories, patterns of growth in total support, the impact of the 12 largest gifts on total support, total support in relation to the alumni base and the type of institution.
In selecting Overall Fund-Raising Performance winners such as Calvin and GVSU, judges used the above factors to recognize institutions that show: “solid program growth; breadth in the base of support; and other indications of a mature, well-maintained program.”
In selecting Overall Fund-Raising Improvement winners such as Hope, judges used the factors to find significant program growth across the three years of data.
Institutions are evaluated within appropriate peer groups using 22 different size and type classifications.
CASE has more than 3,000 member colleges, universities, and independent elementary and secondary schools in the United States, Canada, Mexico and 42 other countries. The association also has 38,000 members on the academic institutions’ staffs plus 23,500 other than professional members.