Philanthropy steps forward for new GRCC campaign

May 24, 2010
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Grand Rapids Community College’s $15 million capital campaign — the largest in the organization’s history — is a testament to a years-long effort to reposition the college and its fund-raising affiliate, the foundation’s executive director said last week.

“It is clearly the largest campaign that we’ve ever run,” Executive Director Andy Bowne said.

The GRCC Foundation last week launched the public phase of the campaign, dubbed “GRCC Works: Ask Anyone.” With Dr. James Buzzitta of Hughes Management as chair, the effort in its quiet phase already raised $10 million from familiar names in Grand Rapids philanthropy: DeVos, Van Andel, Meijer, Secchia, Keller and Wisner.

“Candidly, many of those are first-time, leadership level gifts,” Bowne said. “For instance, members of the DeVos family have been generous with support as an event sponsor, maybe a significant event sponsor. But now we’re seeing a leadership gift. They’re giving, first time, at very significant levels.”

“This level of support so early in the campaign gives us the confidence to now go to the public,” Buzzitta said in a prepared statement.

The “GRCC Works” campaign was conceived along with the community college’s decision to purchase Davenport University’s downtown campus, Bowne said. The private nonprofit business college with 14 campuses statewide put the real estate, at the edge of the historic Heritage Hill neighborhood, on the market after deciding to develop a more traditional college campus close to M-6 in Caledonia Township.

GRCC, which had been considering construction projects upwards of $30 million to accommodate growing enrollment and interest in allied health programs, last year bought the former Davenport campus for $9.5 million.

Money raised in the current campaign will be used for the acquisition and renovations of that campus, as well as remodeling the Peter & Pat Cook Academic Hall and the Gerald R. Ford Fieldhouse, both built in the 1970s, and the circa 19th century Main Building. The cost of the projects will total $34 million.

Although it was established in the 1960s, the GRCC Foundation was “sleepy” until a group of community leaders, convened early in the 21st century to look at the community college finances, suggested it be kicked up a notch, Bowne said.

As of mid-2008, the foundation’s assets were $22.5 million, according to its filing with the Internal Revenue Service. The foundation raised $11.5 million for an endowment and capital projects in its “Open Door” campaign that concluded in 2008.

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