Interview with Mark Jastorff, Vice President for Advancement at Fort Lewis College

How was the Division of Advancement at Fort Lewis College started?

In the last two years, Fort Lewis College has been creating and building the division of advancement from scratch. Previously the college only had a foundation. Though the foundation still exists, we’ve seen a cultural shift for the college to accept responsibility for fundraising. Since creating the new division, we’ve brought together marketing, communications, social media, support systems, alumni engagement, and gift staff. We’ve been significantly investing in how we keep our alumni and community engaged with the college. This is a jigsaw puzzle that we’re still putting together.

What challenges do you face in fundraising and engaging young alumni?

Fort Lewis College is located four hours away from the nearest interstate. It’s definitely not easy to get to. That affects our ability to reach out to the community and stay relevant when we’re not in our donors’ backyards. Our efforts until now have been concentrated in Four Corners and Durango. Our local donors are very generous to the college, but we saw an untapped opportunity in our alumni base that lives outside of Durango. Part of the reason we’ve increased staff and resources in the advancement division is to reach farther.  
Up until now, we haven’t had an alumni engagement program and have not built a culture of philanthropy among our alumni or our community. Today we’re trying to get our students to understand what fundraising is while they are still on campus. We are working across departments to educate students about what it means to be an alumnus/a from the moment they step foot on campus. 

We’re taking steps to reach out to our alumni in the area for the first time in years to find out how we can best engage them.  As a College, we have a pact with our alumni to continually strengthen the value of their degree, and we need their help in making that happen. They are part of the future of Fort Lewis College. 
Despite a lack of a comprehensive alumni and development program, we’re finding that alumni are glad to see us and eager to help financially and with their time. They are looking for networking opportunities and the chance to get together to share Fort Lewis pride. We’re just now starting to get together with an alumni council and to work on a responsive program for our graduates. The wariness that we experienced at first seems to be going away as we prove that the college is serious about this effort. 

What are the biggest opportunities for the Division of Advancement?

One unique thing about the college is that we are one of two non-tribal schools in the country that provides a Native American Tuition Waiver by treaty.  We are proud of our mission to this population.  FLC graduates more Native American bachelor’s students than any other school in the country. The Native American students comprise about 35% of our enrollment and represent between 130-150 different tribes across the country. This allows the Advancement Division to reach out to an audience that’s underserved. You rarely hear about Native American education in other contexts. 
The challenge lies in seeking to engage a population that is most often first generation, and one that focuses on culture and family. FLC wants to be a part of that fabric so we can better serve future generations of students.  We have to figure out how to communicate our value in a way that’s meaningful. Engaging and integrating these alumni into the future of the college is our most important goal.