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Drawing on experience gleaned from a career spent at both private and public institutions of higher education – with twenty-five years as chief advancement office – Tommy utilizes his analytical and strategic skills to leverage budget resources in achieving a higher level of sustainable philanthropic income.

01. Strategic

Thomas (Tommy) has served as Vice-President of several top liberal arts colleges in the United States. In this role, he has provided strategic leadership for fundraising and outreach efforts. He has also directed staff in areas such as the Board of Trustees, External Relations & Development, and Campaign committees.

02. Successful

Successfully led comprehensive capital campaigns, solicited major and planned gifts, and supported college annual funds. Most notably, directed six campaigns raising an impressive total of over $1 billion, which included securing $260 million to fund 20 building projects.

03. Experienced

Tommy’s experience and expertise encompasses various areas, including cultivating and soliciting principal gift prospects at multi million-dollar levels, implementing strategic and innovative communication strategies, recruiting and engaging trustees, and effectively managing staff.


Past Campaigns

Carleton College Logo

Carleton College

Every Carl for Carleton Campaign

Surpassed the $400 million goal by raising $492 million over the six-year campaign period
Solicited four eight-figure and seventy-five seven-figure commitments
Over $250 million in gifts for the endowment

Macalester College St Paul MN logo

Macalester College

Step Forward Campaign

Raised $156 million toward a goal of $150 million
80% of funds raised were in outright gifts and pledges
Gift commitments included twenty-eight of $1 million or more and three eight-figure commitments

The University of the South Sewanee logo

The University of the South - Sewanee

The Campaign for Sewanee: Sustaining the Founders’ Vision

Raised $171 million toward a goal of $141 million
Major projects funded included a new seminary chapel, central dining hall, athletic center, residence hall, new merit scholarship endowments, and endowed internship program

Thomas Bonner Photo


Most recently, Thomas (Tommy) Bonner served as the Vice President for External Relations for Carleton College. In this role, he provided strategic leadership for Carleton’s fundraising and outreach efforts. The External Relations division included Development, the Alumni Annual Fund, Alumni Relations, and Grants Office. Additionally, he provided staff direction to the Board of Trustee’s Trustee Affairs, External Relations & Development, and Campaign committees.

On campus Tommy served on the President’s Cabinet as well as various management committees for areas related to capital planning, technology planning, and budget allocations. He recently provided staff direction for the successful six-year Every Carl for Carleton campaign which concluded in 2021 raising $491 million for college priorities toward a $400 million goal.

Tommy began his tenure at Carleton in early 2014 after a nine-year stint at Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. Responsibilities at Macalester were similar in scope. At Macalester, he provided staff leadership for the five-year Step Forward campaign which raised $156 million toward a goal of $150 million. The previous Macalester campaign concluded in 2001 and raised $55 million.

Prior to Macalester, he served for 14 years at Sewanee: The University of the South in Sewanee, TN, a liberal arts college and seminary affiliated with the Episcopal Church. At Sewanee the last eight years were in the role of Vice President for University Relations. While at Sewanee he provided staff direction for two campaigns with combined goals of $350 million.

Tommy is from rural Mississippi, a first-generation college student graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, MS. He began his 40+ year advancement career at Southern Miss where he held various roles over a nine-year tenure.

Tommy is married to Debbie Kenyon Bonner, parent of two adult daughters, and two grandchildren. He enjoys spending time with family, fly fishing, adventure travel, camping, hiking, nature photography, and two Labrador Retrievers.

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Thomas Bonner Consulting

Partnering with Clients Across the United States