Carol Flanigan serves as the senior director of annual giving and donor services at The University of Olivet. In her role, she has the privilege of working directly with alumni to share how their gifts to the College help support thriving academics, athletics, student life opportunities and more. During her own time as a student, Carol studied English and creative writing at a private, liberal arts college. She credits her success to her choice of major, explaining it allows her to positively communicate with alumni through letters, emails and other written methods of communication.
When and what brought you to OC, and why do you love OC?
I’ve been at OC for about four-and-a-half years, and before that I worked in fundraising at a big research university in Boston. I really missed the feeling of a small college, and I wanted to live in the Midwest again, so OC was just what I was looking for when I decided to move back. A big university isn’t a perfect fit for everyone, and a lot of students who would thrive at a small college automatically assume it’ll be too expensive. I want to do everything I can to make sure whoever wants an OC education can afford it. It’s really fulfilling to me to see donations for scholarships come in, to know the money is going to students who might have thought a small college was too expensive, and to know that I had a hand in making their OC experience happen.
I love that OC is really student-focused. Faculty and staff dedicate themselves whole-heartedly to making sure students are learning and growing. I think that’s something a lot of schools just say they do, but I see it in action all the time here.
What is your favorite memory from your time at OC?
I was working with a group of students calling alumni right around Halloween. During our breaks, we’d sit around and tell each other ghost stories about campus. We were in the basement of Dole Hall and the windows looked out onto the cemetery, so we were all completely creeped out! It’s just one of the perks of working at a place that is 175 years old!
Where does your passion for annual giving stem from?
Growing up, my mom was so generous (and she still is). She gave to PBS and the zoo and our church, and she was an active member of her own college alumni association even though she’d been out of school for decades. We weren’t rich so her donations weren’t big, but they were regular. So I grew up knowing that showing your support for the things you cared about was important and could have a real impact.
What’s the average day in your role, or some of the unique things you are responsible for?
Phew! My average day changes from week to week, but I’m almost always in the middle of preparing a letter, from writing to working with a designer to pulling and proofing the mailing list. But we also do a lot of asking online now. Our most recent big project was Olivet Gives on Feb. 14 and that’s completely online. Check out some of the awesome videos we created!
What do you share with alumni?
A lot of people think that “small” gifts don’t make a difference or that donating to your alma mater only matters if you can give tens of thousands of dollars. But every $20 gift an alum gives is $20 a student doesn’t need to worry about, and when you’ve been out of college for a while, it’s easy to forget how much $20 can be to a college student. So give at whatever amount feels comfortable to you, and know that it’s appreciated by a current Comet.
What do you look forward to in your role?
Right now, I’m working with Leah Knapp and some people on my team on a project to raise money for the care and feeding of the College’s animals. I love brainstorming and collaborating with people on out-of-the-box projects, and I especially love when that collaboration means hanging out with JoJo, the campus’s beloved tortoise!
What is an interesting or little-known fact about yourself?
I come from a big Irish Catholic family. My grandmother had nine children, 40 grandchildren (I’m the youngest), and over 40 great-grandchildren when she died, and we’ve only added to that number since then. If you know a Flanigan in metro Detroit, it’s probably my cousin!
Learn more about The University of Olivet by contacting the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Watch the Olivet Gives videos to check out some of Carol’s creative thinking in action.