When Marsha Allen came to work at Spelman in 1974, the Manley Student College Center and McAlpin Hall were the newest buildings on campus. While a lot has changed in 39 years, Allen’s warm smile and pleasant demeanor has been a constant.
Currently serving as associate director of donor relations for the Division of Institutional Advancement, she has worked in all phases of the fundraising cycle during her tenure at Spelman. From identification and cultivation of prospective donors to solicitation, recognition acknowledgement of gifts and stewardship, Allen is an indelible figure in the College’s fundraising efforts.
“Marsha brings a wonderfully balanced combination of institutional memory and current relevance to her role and work at Spelman,” said Eloise Alexis, vice president for College Relations. “From this perspective, she ensures continuity in our relationships with long standing supporters, while developing new connections in support of current and emerging College priorities.”
Allen’s first position at Spelman was with Dr. Julius Scott, the special assistant to President Albert E. Manley, Ph.D., the first Black president for the College. From there, she worked two years in Alumnae Affairs and then joined the Development Office. It was here she created a system to maintain gift records and fundraising reports.
As the development program grew, Allen assisted with the formation of the 1881 Society, a gift recognition program that continues today. Having built a foundation for gift processing, reporting and recognition, she moved to the annual fund program to develop her skills in prospect identification and gift solicitation.
The Age of Cultivation
After working primarily with alumnae solicitations, Allen was given an opportunity to experience a different type of donor cultivation and solicitation through the Friends of Spelman Committee. Formed during the tenure of President Donald Stewart, the interactions with this group of women introduced Spelman to the greater Atlanta community.
During this time, she witnessed the construction of the Donald and Isabel Stewart Living-Learning Center and the College’s centennial celebration.
“Developing relationships with philanthropic women such as Sue Wieland, Mary Gellerstad and Lucy Vance, and coordinating events at the homes of women such as Anne Cox Chambers and Monica Kaufman (Pearson) was exciting,” said Allen, a Georgia State University business education graduate. “They were committed and successful in reaching their fundraising goal each year.”
Allen counts the years under President Johnnetta Cole, Ed.D., the College’s first Black woman president, as a very inspirational time. During Dr. Cole’s tenure the College was growing and receiving national recognition and rankings among the best colleges in the country. As a member of the development team, she was integrally involved in the Spelman Campaign: Initiatives for the 90s that raised $113.8 million. In 1991, Allen was presented the Employee of the Year award by Dr. Cole.
Beginning the Era of Recognition
Under Dr. Cole, Allen developed a signature leadership society, The Somoja. It was at this time she said the gift societies’ membership was recognized as a part of the Reunion celebrations.
When Dr. Audrey Manley, the first alumna president, began her term, Allen said they immediately connected. “I feel she valued the length of my tenure at that time and that I was among the few staff members that had worked with her husband, former president Albert Manley,” said Allen.
Under Dr. Audrey Manley, Allen witnessed change in the campus landscape with the construction of the new infirmary and the Albro-Falconer-Manley Science Center. Allen noted it was at this time she had an opportunity to work as a liaison between the student and the donor.
Pay It Forward
Once Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D., was named president of the College in 2002, Allen’s attention moved to donor relations. “Dr. Tatum’s focus on increasing alumnae participation created a need to place more emphasis on stewardship, which in turn helped us promote donor appreciation and consistent giving among our alumnae,” she said.
Allen’s achievements include coordinating a festooning ceremony for leadership donors, and the annual scholarship luncheon connecting scholarship sponsors with their scholarship recipients. She hopes the luncheon will develop a pay-it-forward attitude where the recipient becomes the donor.
“Ms. Allen has been like a Mom away from home and has helped me both academically and financially, helping me maneuver through the financial aid system to find scholarship money for me to stay in college,” said Yoshiko M. Smith, C’2013, a psychology major who plans on becoming a pediatric psychologist.
“I love what I do, and I absolutely love working at Spelman because of its mission,” said Allen. “At Spelman, we create hope and opportunity for young Black women. There is nothing that I can think of that is more important than that.”