Part of President Connie Book’s main responsibilities revolve around fundraising — something she said she had to adjust to when she stepped into the role.
Vice President for University Advancement Jim Piatt works with Book daily. Piatt assists Book in planning fundraising events and searching for resources to fund the school.
“At a lot of universities like Elon, the president is really the most important person when it comes to fundraising because the president sets the tone,” Piatt said. “People who want to support the university philanthropically want to know what the vision is and they want to know what your strategy is because that's what inspires them to give."
President Emeritus Leo Lambert tripled the endowment during his strategic plan from $80 million to around $255 million. Book's priorities will be increasing that number as well.
“The president is going to be personally involved in almost all of the lead gifts to the campaign of the major multimillion dollar gifts,” Lambert said.
Lambert spent more time to during his years at Elon University focusing on fundraising in order to "cultivate relationships" with potential donors.
For Book, it’s also about more than just getting checks signed. She says the personal connections that she is making are a priority.
“I want to make sure people who invest in us and give us their resources know that we are such good stewards of resources, meaning that when a gift comes to the university, we maximize the impact of that gift," Book said. “We celebrate it. We shepherd it, whether it's a construction project or a curriculum project that we are well managed, that we're efficient and that we want the dollars that are raised and resourced for Elon to have student impact.”
Piatt said Book brings something unique to the role.
“Well, President Book is a natural and a lot of people think that development work or fundraising is about having a fancy pitch,” Piatt said. “And it's really not that at all. It's about authenticity and authenticity is often something that you can't teach,” Piatt said.
During the 2018-2019 academic year, an Elon student's tuition was $34,273 according to Elon Admissions. For William & Mary, in-state tuition is $17,434 and out-of-state is $38,735. Wake Forest University comes in at $52,348, and Duke University's tuition is the most expensive at $55,960.
In the last three years, Elon's tuition alone has increased by about $2,000.
While Elon's tuition has continued to increase from year-to-year, Book said the school is working toward making Elon available to more students.
Book said that Elon’s price tag is just one part of the problem in accessibility.
And raising money is a key part.
“It is a challenge because when you don't have a big endowment, you don't have a lot of flexibility to provide scholarship dollars for students who perhaps are have higher need, but question about welcoming,” Piatt said. “I think that there's a great spirit of welcome at Elon for anybody.”