When Lauren Philie came to JSC a few months ago as the associate director of development and alumni relations, she worked closely with Director Sally Laughlin to learn the ins and outs of the office. With Laughlin’s retirement on the immediate horizon, Philie felt prepared to apply for the position, which was advertised internally in the Vermont State College system. The field was narrowed down to two applicants, and Lauren was selected.
Immediately prior to coming to JSC, Lauren served as the development director at River Arts in Morrisville. At this community-based arts organization, she spearheaded a $1 million capital campaign that allowed the organization to purchase and fully rehabilitate the historic building into a usable facility for arts programming and exhibit space.
Philie was looking for a life change. She had spent most of her career working for small non-profits, and the idea of working with a large staff, thousands of alumni, and multiple community groups truly appealed to her. Living in Johnson, she is grateful for the opportunity to work in this community. She believes in the power of higher education to change lives. “There is so much going on here to get excited about and it’s fun to ‘sell’ that to the community,” said Philie.
Philie originally moved to Vermont to attend Champlain College, but after a year, she decided it was not the right fit. She transferred to and graduated from Burlington College, a much smaller school, with her degree in Human Services.
According to Philie, learning fundraising was not intentional. “I learned fundraising by accident,” she said. “I set out to be a social worker, but never was able to get out of the nonprofit management world, which I love.”
In college, she founded a rainforest protection group though Rainforest Action Network. They needed funding to carry out their work, so she learned to fundraise.
In her senior year, she got an internship with a national social and ecological justice non-profit. They hired her even before she graduated. “Again, we needed to fundraise to survive, and I was fortunate to have a board member who was a fundraising guru and she taught me everything she knew,” said Philie. It was there that she learned how to work with donors, conduct mailings, run phone-a-thons, solicit sponsorships and more.
“After I left that job to have a baby, I attended an intensive grant -writing course and discovered that I have a knack for grant-writing,” said Philie. She has continued working for small non-profits including a local child care center and a community arts organization. She has served on boards and committees, and is currently PTA President at Johnson Elementary School, all of which have involved fundraising.
JSC President Barbara Murphy and Philie are working on goals for the Development Office together. According to the president, they are hoping “to establish more of a culture of philanthropy on campus among students, staff and faculty. We are carrying out a small focused campaign using the occasion of our new Visual Arts Center to strengthen programming in the Arts,” she said. “We will assess its success and consider other such campaigns.” They hope to increase grant-writing, rethink Homecoming to appeal to younger alums as well as older alums and make greater use of social media in reaching out to alumni.
During these hard economic times, the role of the Development Office is vital to the college. “Not just for the gratefully appreciated gifts that make scholarships and other program investments and faculty support possible,” said Murphy, “but to ensure the continuing overall excellence of Johnson State College.”
Philie is happy to be at JSC, and she is looking forward to helping build a culture of philanthropy on campus. She said, “I am excited to work with students, staff and faculty to build campus-wide fundraising and help people identify and work toward the goal of meeting their funding needs.”