As part of their never-ending efforts to forge relationships with likely donors, colleges and universities actively seek donations from targeted businesses, but a $1 million gift spread out over 10 years remains a rare prize in the field of corporate donations.
Alex and Ani Inc., based in Cranston, named one of the nation’s fastest-growing companies in 2011 by Inc. Magazine, announced late last month that it is giving $1 million – $100,000 in each of the next 10 years – to Bryant University in Smithfield to support the school’s well-recognized international-studies program.
“Bryant offers local, unparalleled expertise for any serious business to access and leverage in its international efforts,” said Giovanni Feroce, CEO of Alex and Ani, known for its expandable bangles, earrings and necklaces, made in America. “As we try to develop our markets, [Bryant] is going to be a major asset to us.”
At Bryant, James Damron, vice president of university advancement, heads a full-time staff of eight employees, including development officers whose job it is to solicit donations from individuals and corporations, with the majority coming from Bryant alumni. The Alex and Ani gift was unsolicited.
“The focus at Bryant is on [donations from] individuals, that’s where most of the potential is,” Damron said.
At Brown University, individual rather than corporate gifts also make up “the lion’s share” of donations, according to William Layton, executive director of corporate and foundation relations for the Ivy League school. A separate office for university advancement handles individual gifts.
Layton heads a staff of six full-timers that solicits specific gifts from foundations and corporations, researching and writing proposals that align Brown’s needs with the goals of donating parties. For example, a private corporation involved in robotics or materials science would be approached for funds to support similar programs in Brown’s engineering division.
He estimated that corporate donations make up only about 10 percent of the total donations Brown receives. In each of the last five years, corporate giving to Brown has ranged from $1.98 million to $5.5 million annually, Layton said.
He added that he and his staff are always “on the lookout” for companies whose contributions would strengthen what Brown offers.
The Alex and Ani gift to Bryant came about in part because Ralph Rafaelian, the father of Carolyn Rafaelian, who owns the jewelry-making business and designs its products, graduated from Bryant in 1955. The conference room at Bryant’s Center for International Business has been renamed the Ralph Rafaelian ’55 Conference Room.