Effective Partnerships Across Fundraising and Constituent Engagement

J Thomas Forbes was appointed President and Chief Executive Officer of the Indiana University Foundation in December of 2021 after a very successful tenure as CEO of the Indiana University Alumni Association. J T. shared his perspective on effective collaboration between advancement and alumni relations as well as lessons learned as a first-time foundation president.


You mentioned that what we do in Advancement does not create a sense of connection for students to the institution. Have you worked with student offices to support their programs to help with this sense of connection?

To clarify, I said that students do not connect to their institutions solely because of what the advancement staff does. The dominant themes I see in the research conducted as part of the Purdue-Gallup and National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) is that students connect to the institution when they have a meaningful experience that spans beyond a semester and when they feel that someone formally connected to the institution really cared about them.  I also noted that advancement units often support programs that help create experiences that foster these connections.

I challenged listeners to seek to “connect the dots” and take care not to “create all the dots,” as some individuals responsible for student and recent graduate engagement sometimes feel like they have to create completely new programs rather than partner with existing on-campus programs that attract the interest of students and recent graduates. We have launched a project designed to do help us do this better. I’m happy to connect you to the person leading this initiative for us if you are interested in learning more.

Advice for someone who wants to join Advancement in the future? Ways to start and gain practice?

Gain experience by getting involved, in courses and co-curricular internships as well as programs focused on volunteering and giving. Many institutions sponsor student organizations and internships. Seek out those opportunities. If these aren’t available at your institution, then explore opportunities beyond campus. For example, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) sponsors an intern program. Visit case.org to learn more.

What research was referenced about what alumni are looking for?

We have done extensive research on our alumni that provided us these insights. I’m happy to connect you to the staff who have conducted these projects if you are interested in learning more.

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