New UHV advancement staff member aims to boost annual giving

The act of giving back is something Crystal Simmons learned quite a bit about working for a year in the advancement office at her alma mater in Virginia.

Those skills are coming in handy with Simmons’ new role as director of annual giving at the University of Houston-Victoria. Simmons is working with alumni and friends of the university to set up annual gifts of up to $10,000.

Crystal Simmons

Simmons said she enjoyed working as coordinator of gift planning at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Va.

“It was a job where I thought I was doing something that mattered,” she said. “When this job in UHV University Advancement opened, it was a natural fit. I was ready to get back into the higher education setting.”

Annual gifts typically are made by families, alumni, companies and community members. Donors can designate how the university uses the money. Some examples are scholarships, endowments or athletics.

“It can be a donation of as little as $5,” Simmons said. “The idea is to get the donor into the pattern of giving every year and eventually increase giving.”

To raise awareness about how annual giving helps UHV, Simmons has proposed direct mail pieces, email blasts and other correspondence. She also will represent UHV at community meetings.

“I love the people who I’m working with, and I like that I can be creative with what gets sent out,” she said.

UHV University Advancement is responsible for fundraising and alumni relations. The university hired Greg Rutzen, associate vice president for University Advancement and chief advancement officer, to lead the office last year. Charles Alcorn III, director of corporate and foundation relations, also came on board in 2013.

Greg Rutzen

Rutzen said he was delighted to have Simmons join the advancement team.

“She is motivated, energetic and always ready to take the initiative with projects assigned to her,” he said. “Add to that her valuable advancement experience at James Madison University, and it’s easy to see why she was our top choice for the job.”

A Virginia native, Simmons earned a bachelor’s degree in English in 2005 from James Madison. She worked for the university from 2009 to 2010, where she prepared all gift agreements and collaborated with advancement staff to design and produce materials for targeted solicitations and special fundraising initiatives.

Simmons moved to Victoria in 2012 with her husband, who is in the Coast Guard. He is stationed at Port O’Connor. She worked as a personal banker at Wells Fargo in Victoria before starting at UHV on Dec. 9. Simmons said she met a lot of community members through her job at the bank.

Besides external giving, Simmons will work on UHV’s internal fundraising. The One For All – All For One campaign has a goal of raising $100,000 in employee contributions this school year. About $46,000 has been raised so far.

Simmons also plans on teaming up with student leaders to educate UHV students about the concept of philanthropy and its importance.

“The earlier they start, the more likely they are to continue giving back once they graduate,” Simmons said.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Jeremy Shapiro