Institutional Excellence: Berry College

The 2014 recipient of the GEAC Award for Overall Institutional Excellence in Advancement soared to great heights in both public relations and fundraising – on wings of eagles, if you will.

While some may have said their work was for the birds, the public relations professionals at Berry College took seriously the job of managing the national and international attention generated by the bald eagles that have taken up residence in a pine tree not far from the original site for the institution’s new athletic stadium. Football may king in South, but at Berry the eagles rule the roost, both in the eyes of administrators who made the decision to move the stadium and the millions of viewers who have made the college’s live Eagle Cam appointment viewing at all hours of the days and night.

As this audience has grown, so too has the glare of the media spotlight focused on the Rome, Ga., campus by the likes of the Weather Channel, CNN, USA Today, the New York Times, the Chronicle of Higher Education and countless other newspapers, television and radio stations across the country. The Berry PR team raced to keep pace with hundreds of media queries while also fielding questions from school children, teachers and nature enthusiasts from all around the globe who reached out via Facebook and other channels. The result was unprecedented exposure for Berry and countless new opportunities to tell the college’s unique story.

At the same time the eagles were taking flight, Berry’s advancement team was busy preparing for the launch of a new multi-year fundraising campaign promising to change the face of the institution’s 27,000-acre campus even as it enhances its ability to prepare students for life after college. Four years of hard work behind the scenes came to fruition in May 2014 with the public launch of LifeReady: The Berry College Campaign for Opportunity. Donors gasped and glasses were raised when it was revealed that gifts and pledges during the silent phase exceeded $73 million. That total has since exceeded $80 million, with a final goal somewhere north of $100 million. Already, this is the second most successful fundraising effort in Berry history. By the time it concludes in 2020, it will be No. 1.

Though this is a team honor, the GEAC Awards Committee wishes to commend one individual in particular – Karilon Rogers, Berry’s director of philanthropic communications – for her impressive accomplishments, which include spearheading communication efforts for the two most successful campaigns in Berry history and leading a revolution in alumni publications that helped to make those campaigns possible.