During her 23 years as a fundraising and development professional, Kristen Bennett, Tarrant County College’s new Executive Vice President of Advancement, has learned that sustained success is built upon connecting the dots.
Bennett joined TCC in 2020 as part of Chancellor Eugene Giovannini’s vision to strengthen TCC’s impact by enhancing the school’s ties with its students, alumni, donors and the general community. This process also includes more closely integrating the Tarrant County College Foundation into the central fabric of the school and the community.
“We’ll be making a transition from the old-school foundation concept into an office of proactive advancement and advocacy, instead of the traditional approach of simply going out and getting donations,” said Fred Schmidt, foundation director of development, corporate & industry partnerships. “Advancement has a much more global perspective and a greater connection to the College. The interaction with donors, students and the community is more relational than transactional.”
Bennett is literally building TCC’s advancement initiative from scratch. Since joining TCC after a successful five-year stint as the chief advancement officer at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas, she has focused on creating the infrastructure for her initial five-year growth plan, which then will set the stage for a longer advancement initiative.
An important element of the initial activities, said Bennett, will be creating a variety of pathways for students and alumni to become more engaged with TCC and each other. “There is so much untapped potential in each of these groups. We’ll stress engaging the alumni beyond making financial donations. Perhaps it will be as a coach-mentor or to volunteer for a special project. There will really be an infinite set of opportunities to become involved with TCC,” she said.
Connecting those dots in a very human way will naturally lead to higher donations to the school and Foundation because, as Bennett said, “People give to people, not organizations. The more you engage your alumni and friends, the increased giving grows exponentially. They give to people they have relationships with, not organizations. People may give to organizations in a transactional way. But I’m really about sustained giving that actually builds programs and transforms generations of individuals.”
Her vision of involvement also extends to the Foundation’s leadership. Bennett sees a greater degree of personal involvement from Board members, students, educators, community leaders and everyday citizens through ad hoc committees and special task forces as an important building block in her advancement infrastructure. “We want representation, not just individuals of wealth who give philanthropic dollars. We want individuals who are connectors, are community leaders. We’re also going to add faculty and staff representation on our Board and even student representation. I want a collective group of individuals from all backgrounds so that when we’re looking at programs, services and projects, and we’re trying to look at everything comprehensively, we have as many ideas and thoughts as possible,” said Bennett.
Another important connection will be Shannon Bryant, executive vice president for TCC’s newly formed Corporate Solutions and Economic Development division. Bryant describes her group as “the business face of the College to serve local businesses by providing custom solutions to their needs. We will be establishing very deep relationships with companies in Tarrant County in relation to their business needs. We want to hold TCC out as the workforce solutions provider for the entire county.” As such, she will be working with owners and senior leaders of companies, who are key elements of Bennett’s overall strategy.
Bennett and Bryant see working closely together to build TCC’s presence in and service to the business community as a natural synergy between our groups,” Bennett said.
They also agree on the goal they have set for their groups so that they reflect TCC’s commitment to the community and its students. They both use the term “being an office of excellence.” And, Bennett said, “making a life-changing impact.”
To learn how to support TCC students through a contribution to the Foundation scholarship program, please call 817-515-5277.