Boldly building a high performing advancement organization: How the University at Buffalo manages talent during its $1 billion Boldly Buffalo campaign

Rodney M. Grabowski, Vice President of the Division of University Advancement at the University at Buffalo, spoke with GG+A Senior Vice President Pete Lasher about the success of the Boldly Buffalo campaign, the implications of becoming a flagship institution, and his philosophy for managing talent.


  • How many staff and how much (approx) is raised annually?

Approximately 120 staff, of which, around 40 are forward facing fundraising staff. We have significantly increased our fundraising over the past 5 years. FY2017 – $56M; FY18 – $65M, FY19 – $71M, FY20 – $94M, FY21 – $116M and FY22 should be $150-165M

  • Who leads the talent management? Is that advancement staff or HR or combo? What does that budget look like?

Nicole Shepherd, Assistant VP of Donor Relations and Talent Management leads the effort within the Advancement Division. Nicole focuses on the training and development while our HR Associate Director (also within the division) focuses on talent management hiring practices. Budgets are diversified across the division … individual training budgets are within the hands of each AVP; while divisional training budgets are maintained by talent management.

  • How do you convince your leadership and board that that high level of ROI is not possible to maintain?

It has taken five years for leadership to trust me and my predictions. We use lots of benchmark studies (EAB, consultants, our own practices) to showcase where we are at, how we have improved, and discuss what is sustainable.

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