The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) named its 2021 Circle of Excellence Award winners June 9, and Virginia Tech once again won multiple awards in the areas of fundraising, communications, and marketing.

The university received four top awards, including two in fundraising, from CASE, which is a worldwide membership association that serves educational institutions and advancement professionals. These peer-selected and adjudicated awards honor institutions whose talented staff have advanced their organizations through their resourcefulness and ingenuity.

Winners are selected based on several factors, including overall quality, innovation, use of resources, and the impact on the institution or its external and internal communities, such as alumni, parents, students, faculty, and staff. 

This year, CASE received almost 3,000 entries from 27 countries. Those entries came from 530 institutions for consideration across 100 categories.

“First, it’s great to see the work of the Advancement team, under Charlie Phlegar’s leadership, being recognized in our industry,” said Rhonda Arsenault, senior associate vice president for advancement at Virginia Tech. “While this past year was difficult in so many respects, it has been amazing to see our team embrace all challenges, collaborating, adapting, and being creative, which has enabled us to meet ambitious goals. This recognition is a direct result of their collaborative efforts, and I’m grateful for the ongoing dedication of the team.

“Then, I would also say that these awards reflect the commitment of Virginia Tech students, alumni, and donors to helping us advance the educational and research mission of this university," Arsenault continued. "Their generous support has elevated Virginia Tech’s profile nationally and set us on a path toward a bigger and better future. There truly is something special about the Hokie Nation, and it’s great to see our industry recognizing that as well.”

The Virginia Tech Advancement team created a “Sock the Vote” campaign as a part of Giving Tuesday that led to the group winning two awards. The team took a risk and innovatively used humor as an element of fundraising to target younger, less traditional alumni.

The Advancement team won a grand gold award – the top level on the CASE award structure – for digital communications and social media. The group’s “Sock the Vote” digital marketing campaign received high praise from the judges for its creativity.

Also, the Advancement staff won a gold medal in fundraising as it relates to annual giving. Again, the “Sock the Vote” campaign received praise for being an innovative idea using humor and for its engagement of donors.

The money raised through the campaign will benefit a wide variety of the university’s colleges and programs.

The Giving Tuesday socks project has grown into a beautifully collaborative effort across annual giving, marketing, university relations, engagement, and our college and program partners,” said Ann Lehman, director of annual giving at Virginia Tech. “We are honored to receive the grand gold award from CASE and to share it with all who helped make this project a sock-ccess!”

Virginia Tech also won a gold medal for Magazines on a Shoestring because of the creativity and the writing of the staff on IMAGINE: The University Libraries at Virginia Tech magazine. The staff uses the magazine to illuminate the evolution of the University Libraries at Virginia Tech from a keeper and curator of knowledge to an engaged partner in research, publishing, and other academic and scholarly activities.

The library has the ingredients for solid research and the technology-rich spaces to collaborate, create, and innovate. This magazine serves as an informational and promotional piece to tell the story of Virginia Tech’s transformation, so that other libraries can learn from the university, and become integral partners in their university’s academic, research, and innovation enterprises.

“We were pleased and very proud that IMAGINE: The University Libraries at Virginia Tech magazine was recognized by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education,” said Ann Brown, director of strategic communications at University Libraries. “We have a small strategic communications team, and the bi-annual magazine is an important communication to our Virginia Tech community, library supporters, and library colleagues across the country and beyond. In addition to positive feedback from our readers, it’s really special to be recognized by advancement communications peers across the country.”

Virginia Tech also won a bronze for special events in the online category. A group of people led by Ciji Good, director of special events; Annie McCallum, director of advancement communications; and Dom Benjamin, communications specialist in university relations, came up with the idea of the inaugural Hokie Hike event, which designed to connect alumni and friends online when gathering in person was not possible. Hokies paid a fee to register for the event, and then were asked to share their journeys on both social media and a photo leaderboard during the hiking window that culminated in National Take a Hike Day.

The event helped to build community, engage alumni, friends, students, and parents, and raised money for outdoor recreation activities for Virginia Tech students, which was more important than ever during the 2020-21 academic year.

“A silver lining of the pandemic was that we were able to create new, unique ways to engage with fellow Hokies, while also making a difference,” Good said. “The Hokie Hike was a great partnership with Rec Sports, the College of Natural Resources and Environment, and Advancement. I think we created a new tradition that will live on for years to come, and I’m excited that the event was recognized with a CASE award.”

Virginia Tech now has won at least one CASE award in five of the past six years.

Written by Jimmy Robertson


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