Welcome to the first international edition of GGQR. Our editorial objective is to provide data-rich insights on topics that matter to philanthropy professionals. In this issue, we highlight experiences of our clients around the globe. If you have feedback or suggestions on future content, we'd love to hear from you.
Starting Up in Fundraising – Perspectives and Principles
When John Grenzebach founded our firm in 1961, educational fundraising looked very different from the way it does now.
In the USA, CASE (The Council for the Advancement and Support of Education) did not exist. It would not be formed for another thirteen years, in 1974.
Fewer than a quarter of US universities – almost all of them private institutions – ran an annual fund or engaged in major gifts fundraising. State universities could expect to receive more than three-quarters of their per-student funding from government funds.
In the UK, Harold Macmillan’s Conservative government was about to introduce a system of investment in new universities, mandatory maintenance grants, and free tuition that would make university education effectively cost-free for British students until the late 1980s, and would lead most established universities to cease what fundraising they had carried out until then.
So in our 56 years as a consultancy firm, we’ve seen multiple waves of institutions taking first, or renewed, steps into the realm of philanthropy. In this article, you’ll hear from three institutions who have done this in the last decade and a half – the University of Leeds in the UK, Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, and Aalto University in Helsinki, Finland.
The UK Perspective: The University of Leeds
The University of Leeds in the north of England was founded on philanthropy – it can trace its existence back to 10 donations of £5 in 1831 to establish a Medical School in the city.
In 1925, it ran a spectacularly successful public appeal, supported by the future King George VI, which raised £300,000 in twelve months from individuals across the towns and villages of Yorkshire. In 1951, it was raising substantial sums from annual donations.
But by 2006, when Michelle Calvert arrived from the University of Aberdeen to be Leeds’ Director of Development, little coordinated fundraising had happened for more than 50 years.
“The single biggest factor in getting fundraising going again at Leeds was the impetus and support from leadership,” says Calvert.
“Michael Arthur arrived at Leeds as Vice Chancellor in September 2004 and was quick to ask what the University was doing to engage its alumni community and encourage philanthropy. He went on a fact-finding tour of the US and became convinced that it should be possible to leverage the size and reach of our own alumni community to support the University’s ambitions and ideals.”
“Michael showed a commitment to developing philanthropy at Leeds in both a conceptual and practical way. He was very hands on and willing to go out and meet a large number of senior alumni to engage them with the University’s vision and mission.”
“Being given the investment to build a team was also crucial,” Calvert explains. “When I arrived, the alumni and development team totaled about 10, half of whom were quite new. If we’d stayed at that level of staffing throughout the early phases, we wouldn’t have been able to make the impact that we did. It took faith from the institution to give us more investment, and we knew that there was a responsibility upon us to do everything thoughtfully, transparently, and well. We made sure we set up systems at the outset that would enable us to evidence the impact of our work and gain the confidence and buy-in of our academic colleagues.”
“It took faith from the institution to give us more investment, and we knew that there was a responsibility upon us to do everything thoughtfully, transparently, and well. We made sure we set up systems at the outset that would enable us to evidence the impact of our work and gain the confidence and buy-in of our academic colleagues.” – Michelle Calvert, Director of Development, University of Leeds
And how about the buy-in from alumni? “There were a number of people who came on board quickly,” says Calvert. “We were later getting started in philanthropy than many of our Russell Group peers, so the message we often heard at early alumni events was, ‘What’s taken you so long?’ rather than, ‘Why are you doing this?’ There was broad agreement that this was the direction we should be taking, and we got very little pushback.”
“One of the challenges we faced was that there were thousands of alumni who had had little or no contact from the University – for 30 or more years in some cases. We’re very grateful to our academic predecessors that so many of them had enormous gratitude for their time at Leeds in the ‘50s, ‘60s, and ‘70s, and an enduring affection for the University. Some of those people are now our biggest supporters. They understood our context and trusted our serious commitment to engaging for the long term, and have become loyal donors, advisers, volunteers, and friends.”
The University has now exceeded its initial £60M campaign goal and is working towards an extended goal of £100M. More than 14,000 alumni have given to the University through the campaign. So what are the things Michelle Calvert and her team are seeing as the important things to focus on for the next decade of philanthropy at Leeds?
“I think the most important thing is how we go from consistent support for philanthropy at the top of the institution to embedding fundraising more broadly and deeply across the University,” explains Calvert.
“How can we help our Deans and senior academics think about alumni and development work in a way they may not have done up till now? We’re working on embedding alumni volunteering in a much more systematic way – it’s such a powerful tool for engaging alumni at all levels, and also our current students.”
“If I was giving one piece of advice to someone tasked with starting up advancement at their institution, I’d say – make sure you get the leadership buy-in, and get on with it!”
“Looking back, I think we spent too much time being perfectionists about some of our projects, and we could have moved more quickly. It’s like launching a ship – you don’t have to have all the interior paintwork complete before you set sail, as long as it’s fundamentally watertight.”
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The Australian Perspective: Macquarie University, Sydney
Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, is a “new” university. Founded in 1964, it was Sydney’s third university and is now ranked in the top two percent of world universities.
Under the leadership of Professor David Wilkinson, Macquarie’s Advancement Office has realized significant growth in the last five years, raising AUS$10M in new gifts and pledges in 2016, including its largest gift to date of AUS$2M. This is more than double the amount Macquarie’s then Foundation Office raised in 2014. To what does Professor Wilkinson attribute this success?
“I would sum this up as ‘leadership and investment.’ My view is that without the two, you can’t win,” says Professor Wilkinson, echoing Michelle Calvert’s view from the University of Leeds.
“I would sum [up our success as a result of] ‘leadership and investment.’ My view is that without the two, you can’t win.” – David Wilkinson, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Corporate Engagement and Advancement, Macquarie University
“We have a Vice Chancellor for whom advancement is an essential priority, and he has me, who feels the same way. So, having this key leadership at the senior executive level is absolutely necessary, but it is, of course, insufficient. You need investment also. Our University invested from the start and will continue to invest.”
How much to invest, and in what?
“Well, that comes from having a plan and sticking to that plan. Luckily, in advancement that is what I call a ‘play book’; simply, we know what to do, we know what the strategy is. It really is all about execution. We developed a plan – with GG+A – and we invested against that plan.”
And what does Professor Wilkinson think will drive future growth in philanthropy at Macquarie for the next 10 years?
“Well, two more factors play out here. The first is the team, and the second is the story.”
“We have built the team against a plan, and we build into opportunity. For example, we are the only university in Australia to own and run a hospital. So, clearly medical philanthropy is a big opportunity for us. We built the team around that opportunity and will continue to do so.”
“We have built the team against a plan, and we build into opportunity. For example, we are the only university in Australia to own and run a hospital. So, clearly medical philanthropy is a big opportunity for us. We built the team around that opportunity and will continue to do so.” – David Wilkinson
“Regarding the story, or stories, we will continue to refine, clarify, and promulgate them. We will continue to understand who we are, what we stand for, and what we can offer. We will refine these narratives more and more and share them with alumni, friends, and donors, and we expect that we will more and more be able to tell stories about the successful impact of donations. This will build more and more momentum and will create more value.”
“Ten years from now, philanthropy will be a substantial contributor to Macquarie University’s revenue and success.”
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The Nordic Perspective: Aalto University, Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki’s Aalto University was formed in 2010 via a merger of three existing institutions. Aalto University ranked as Finland’s best university in four indicators used in the QS World University Rankings 2018. Aalto’s overall ranking was 137th in the world, which means it is among the top 1% of all universities. Over a period of five years, Aalto’s ranking in the QS Ranking has risen by 59 places.
“Fundraising in the Anglo-American sense is about 10 years old in Finnish universities,” says Teppo Heiskanen, Director for Advancement and Corporate Engagement, whose motto is ‘Find a way or make a way.’
“There have been ad hoc donations, for example via legacies, before, but going out systematically to seek them is new. It really started with a Government matched funding scheme in 2011, similar to the one the UK government ran for universities in the mid-to-late 2000s.”
“There were two tranches of matched funding – the first was in 2011 and the second is just closing. But many Finnish universities thought the first scheme was a one-off, and so after it closed they let their fundraising staff go. When the new scheme was announced, they had to gear up again very quickly. Now I think there’s an understanding among Finnish higher education institutions that this will be a permanent thing.”
“There’s a challenge inherent in the Finnish context, which is that, by my estimation, only 10% of the total Finnish universities have raised in the matched funding scheme has come from individuals like alumni. Ninety percent is most likely to have come from foundations and corporations.”
“There are 14 universities in Finland, but Finland’s GDP is the same as Louisiana’s. So those 14 universities are all approaching the same foundations and companies.”
“It’s been a change of perspective for us to think that income from individuals, which has historically been our weakest income stream, might be the one with the largest long-“term potential.”
“At the same time, we shouldn’t neglect what we have done well up to now. Our discussions with GG+A have shown that we are very advanced in the way we structure our relationships with corporate partners, and this is something that we have worked out by ourselves.”
“One of the things we really have to dig into and understand,” says Heiskanen, “is how to position Aalto as a cause people will want to give to. There is great affection for the University, but there is no sense of ‘obligation’ to give, because that has never existed in Finland. So we must show people how giving to Aalto might fit into their wider philanthropic priorities, and that will take time.”
“We are lucky that our leadership understands this – this is a 10-year project at the very least, and we are not expecting quick and easy returns.”
“One thing that we want to do in particular is learn how to use prospect data better. At the moment we look at prospects ‘with our fingertips’ – we don’t have a systematic enough approach to data. We particularly want to develop that.”
“And we are looking into the student experience at Aalto and how advancement fits into that. As a merged University, we need to be very aware of the different identities of former generations, but we are finding they have a very positive view of us. Just recently I was hosting a group of engineers who were in the University of Technology’s class of 1967 – they were all about 85 years old. It was the first time they were visiting the campus in its new identity as part of Aalto. They were so proud to be part of Aalto’s heritage. So I have very strong hopes for the future of our alumni engagement here.”
Here are three very different institutions, varying in age and structure, and geographically far-flung.
But when we look at their experiences of success, two key points emerge which we at GG+A have identified time and again as pre-conditions for success in beginning a culture of philanthropy:
Commitment from the very top. Our interviewees from Leeds, Macquarie, and Aalto all speak to the importance of vision and determination from senior leadership, and the recognition that developing philanthropy is a long-term strategic goal.
Many institutions that do not succeed in realizing their philanthropic ambitions fail because they get caught in a vicious cycle of initial under-investment, leading to poor results, leading to an unwillingness to make further investment. All three institutions we have spoken to here have recognized the importance of investment as a pre-condition for results, not the other way around.
And with this commitment, and investment, you can then begin to build an advancement program rooted in your institution’s own unique vision, identity, and mission.
Professional Tips for Growing Advancement Programs
“Refine your narratives and share them with alumni, friends and donors, and expect that you will more and more be able to tell stories about successful impact from donations.”
Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Corporate Engagement and Advancement
“If I was giving one piece of advice to someone tasked with starting up advancement in their institution, I’d say – make sure you get the leadership buy-in, and get on with it!”
Director of Development
University of Leeds
“There is great affection for the university, but there is no sense of ‘obligation’ to give, because that has never existed in Finland. So we must show people how giving to Aalto might fit into their wider philanthropic priorities, and that will take time.”
Director of Advancement and Corporate Engagement
A Conversation With...
Q + A
Director of Advancement
Miles Stevenson: “Action This Day”
Q: What drew you to a career in advancement?
A: A shaft of sunlight, if you can believe that. I was paying off my postgraduate debts at the University of Bristol. I worked every day of the week. I was sitting in the library staff common room on my own, and suddenly this shaft of sunlight illuminated the job bulletin board. There were three jobs posted – a pig farm worker, a professor of astrophysics, and an alumni relations officer. The alumni relations officer job description said that you had to like meeting people, organizing parties, and traveling the world. It mentioned a little bit of fundraising. This “little bit of fundraising” turned into my career. I have had a tremendous amount of fun because of that shaft of sunlight.
The alumni relations officer job description said that you had to like meeting people, organizing parties, and traveling the world. It mentioned a little bit of fundraising. This “little bit of fundraising” turned into my career.
Q: What early leadership lessons have most benefited you?
A: One of them came from my first vice chancellor at Sheffield, Professor Bob Boucher. He said to me, “You can learn something new every day.” I like that lesson because it encourages constant learning, and it promotes the idea of the servant leader rather than the flamboyant leader. The servant leader should do things gently, understand that silence is a good strength, and sometimes keep his mouth shut. Listen instead of just charging in – you learn so much more.
There was also another vice chancellor, Sir Eric Thomas, who taught me that the life of a leader is never as easy as it looks. Every day you might have three seemingly unsolvable problems, but that’s the stimulation of being a leader.
Another important leadership lesson is that fundraisers are the diplomats of a university. They must not have big egos. Their role is bringing people together, not thrusting themselves into the spotlight. As fundraisers, we take pleasure in doing things behind the scenes, being patient, being courteous. These are really important skills, and universities look to the development office to have these skills. I observe all of the P’s: persistence, patience, passion, perseverance – they are necessary skills as a fundraiser.
Q: What is your formula for success working with internal institutional partners on campaign planning?
A: Academics are often flattered if you have bothered to read their book or attend their lectures. I’ve seen them absolutely amazed by interest in their subject area. Go back to the classroom every so often, and that’s how you get to know your university. It’s a very respectful thing to do, and I don’t think enough fundraisers do it. Also, get to know your students. Remind yourself why you are doing this work. If I’m feeling low, I spend time with the students. It always makes me feel better.
Go back to the classroom every so often, and that’s how you get to know your university. Also, get to know your students. Remind yourself why you are doing this work.
Q: Do you have a favorite quote or inspirational saying that motivates you?
A: In fact, I have two. The first is Winston Churchill’s “Action This Day.” During the Second World War, he made labels of this in red. If there are action items, do them right away. As humans, we are too good at putting things off.
The second is Goethe’s quote, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.” If you can come up with an idea, just go for it. Too many people come up with excuses—no one is going to give to us, donors don’t have an interest in that. So many fundraisers seem chained to their desks. Get off your backside, go out, and meet people.
Q: How do you nurture and retain talent?
A: To nurture and retain talent, you must involve them with senior members of the organization. I like to bring them along to meetings with the vice chancellor, social events at the University, and to the grand dinner. It’s a bit like an episode of the TV series “Downton Abbey,” where you bring people out into “society” to meet the most influential people. The worst thing you can do to a young professional is to strangle their opportunities.
It’s also good to surprise and delight members of the team by including senior leadership where you can. There was a woman who worked here for 35 years in the same position and never asked for or expected a promotion. One day, I tricked her into a meeting with the President and myself. She thought she had done something wrong to be called into a meeting with him. When she walked in, we promoted her on the spot and toasted her with wine. To be promoted unexpectedly by the President never crossed her mind, but she was delighted and grateful for it. That’s the type of behavior that nurtures and retains talent.
Another way to do it is by using praise. The higher you get in the office, the less you get praise, but this is an important part of keeping good people.
Q: What advice would you give a young person entering the profession?
A: First, have a positive outlook on life. Have a smile and say, “Bring it on!” That’s just the attitude I’d like to be surrounded with. When people develop the “glass-half-full” outlook, senior leadership and donors want to surround themselves with that. Have a genuine willingness to take stuff on and be energetic. Who wants to be surrounded by a load of drains? We want to be surrounded by radiators!
When people develop the “glass-half-full” outlook, senior leadership and donors want to surround themselves with that. Have a genuine willingness to take stuff on and be energetic.
The other thing I say to young people is always go the extra mile, especially in stewardship. Stewardship is the most underrated or underdeveloped area of fundraising. You can put your personality into it: in the thankyou note, in the different ways you interact with them. You are allowed to be yourself. Thanking a donor is an incredibly personal thing. Humans often kid themselves into believing they are doing the most important stuff in the office, but the magic actually happens from interactions with people. The best work in our field is done face to face. If the donor is prepared to meet with you, it is likely something will come of it.
The magic actually happens from interactions with people. The best work in our field is done face to face. If the donor is prepared to meet with you, it is likely something will come of it.
Q: What is your favorite part of your job?
A: Meeting the student recipients of gifts. I can see the difference we are making in a humbling way.
Also, interacting with the donors. The donors’ pleasure is just as important as the students’ are, sometimes even higher. I remember one particular student who wanted to pursue her master’s degree but could not because she did not have the money to do it. Over dinner with a donor, I spoke to him about making a gift to make a difference, and this student came up in conversation. Her story inspired him to help fund that master’s program. This is an example of the donor getting as much joy out of the gift as the students who benefit from it. That young woman received funding for her master’s, and ultimately came back for an alumni event and gave an impassioned speech about the importance of giving.
Q: Are there any gifts that you want to highlight?
A: There is one, from a retired professor, John Roach, who died at age 95. I had known him for about 10 years, and we spent lots of time together. I knew he was writing something into his will for Sheffield, but I didn’t know the amount. When John died, I went to his funeral and discovered all of these things about his early life that I never knew: he had served in the Second World War, was captured in Singapore, and spent the rest of the war on the Burma railway. He would have seen absolute horrors, and he never once mentioned it to me. John left us £800,000. You never really know your donors. He was quietly helping, teaching all along, and had seen such horrors in his wartime life. These types of donors really believe in the power of education. Some people do it for vanity or to perpetuate their names, but some people do it because it’s the right thing to do. (Read more about John Roach’s contribution to the University of Sheffield here.)
Miles Stevenson established the Development and Alumni Relations Office at the University of Sheffield, UK, in 2002. The office is responsible for raising philanthropic funds for the University, for its alumni relations program and includes the Events Team, which organizes graduation ceremonies, public lectures, and special events (such as H.M. The Queen’s visit in 2010). Miles is one of the University’s Public Orators for honorary graduates.
Over the last 15 years, the office has grown to a staff of 40. It has established a successful annual fund and legacy program and received six- and seven-figure cash gifts. More than 20,000 donations have been received, and the team has helped to raise more than £40 million in gifts. It also organizes the University alumni relations program for more than 170,000 alumni based in more than 120 countries.
Prior to Sheffield, Miles spent nine years at the University of Bristol’s Development Office. Miles was educated at the University of Durham, where he took a Bachelor’s degree in History and a Master’s Degree in Medieval History, specializing in the Crusades. He has spoken at fundraising conferences in Cyprus, Eire, Germany, Ghana, Italy, The Netherlands, Portugal, Slovenia, and South Africa. He chaired the CASE Europe Spring Institute for four years.
Someone You Should Know
“Luck, Hard Work, and a Willingness to Say Yes”
Sara E. Rubin, Vice President for Principal Gifts at The Ohio State University, credits a whole village of people for her personal and professional success. Over the course of her career, Rubin has taken risks, built a career focused on people, and worked with the “best of the best” in the world of development.
After originally pursuing a career in theater, Rubin took a temporary opportunity at Johns Hopkins’ Wilmer Eye Institute, a position that would lead to a lifelong career in philanthropy. Introduced to development through the lens of grateful patient programs and with the influence of mentors such as the late Dr. Arnall Patz, former director of the Wilmer Institute, Rubin brought an open mind and strong work ethic to her new career. “Luck, hard work, and a willingness to say yes allowed me to learn the business of grateful patient fundraising,” she explains.
“Luck, hard work, and a willingness to say yes allowed me to learn the business of grateful patient fundraising.” – Sara Rubin, Vice President of Principal Gifts, The Ohio State University
When most of her colleagues moved on from annual fund positions to their first development roles, Rubin chose a different direction, accepting a role as Executive Assistant to then-Vice President Bob Lindgren. “Everyone told me that taking an executive assistant position was too administrative, that I shouldn’t do it, but that position gave me a glimpse into the inner workings of a complex institution and its advancement enterprise.” Not only did Rubin gain extensive insight into the business of development, but she also gained a lifelong mentor in Lindgren. “Bob is a highly strategic thinker, and was an innovative leader in our business at a time when it was becoming a business. His influence on me continues today,” says Rubin of Lindgren, who is now President of Randolph-Macon College.
Lindgren credits Rubin’s “indefatigable high energy” and a “fire in her belly” with her success in this early role, and in her jobs thereafter. “Sara saw the potential of this career and what it means to operate at a really high level,” explains Lindgren. Deeply loyal, Rubin continued to work for Dr. Patz while serving as Lindgren’s executive assistant. “Some might have said that work was below Sara’s pay grade,” says Lindgren,“ but she said she was honored to do it, and that it was the right thing to do.”
Rubin’s strong work ethic led her to a role as Senior Director of Development and Alumni Relations at Johns Hopkins Medicine, her last role at the University – which Rubin playfully calls “the Wharton School of Fundraising.” Patty Hill-Callahan, Vice President of Medical and Health Sciences Advancement, Rubin’s current colleague at Ohio State, adds, “Sara gained different skills with each job she took, beginning with her Executive Assistant job twenty years ago. Today, her vast knowledge and experience puts her a step ahead. She has done great things for really good institutions, and is truly informed about many areas.”
“In this business, it’s all about people. If you let your career be guided by working with great people, you will never go wrong.” – Sara Rubin
At the urging of her former Hopkins colleague Charlie Phlegar, currently the Vice President for Advancement at Virginia Tech, Rubin moved to Cornell University in 2006 as the Assistant Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development. There, Rubin oversaw fundraising activities in the Cornell libraries, athletics, the Johnson Museum, and student and academic services. She also managed a range of activities in development services, including donor relations and stewardship, prospect management, research, and special events. Rubin describes this opportunity in her characteristic easygoing manner: “Charlie decided I should become a Cornell Bear instead of a Hopkins Blue Jay. So away I went.” This is the common theme in Rubin’s story: finding great people to work with and trusting that opportunities will follow. “You have to have the willingness to engage with people who are truly talented, because you’ll come out better for it. In this business, it’s all about people. If you let your career be guided by working with great people, you will never go wrong.” Lindgren highlights why great people, in turn, are drawn to Rubin: “Sara is very respectful and loyal, both to people and to institutions where she works,” he explains. “That is one of her most endearing and important qualities. Sara is a great colleague – someone people can talk to.”
In 2011, Rubin accepted an opportunity at New York University Law School as the Assistant Dean for Development and Alumni Relations, where she focused primarily on alumni and friends fundraising. Although she left New York less than two years later, Rubin believes NYU taught her a great deal about navigating a highly competitive environment. When asked what leadership lessons she learned at NYU and throughout the course of her career, Rubin responds candidly, “Learn to listen in a reflective way. Don’t be the smartest kid in the room, be the chameleon who can play in a team environment. Learn to listen, and take your daily dose of humble along with your vitamins each morning.”
“Don’t be the smartest kid in the room, be the chameleon who can play in a team environment. Learn to listen, and take your daily dose of humble along with your vitamins each morning. ” – Sara Rubin
In a move that echoed her Cornell transition, Rubin moved to The Ohio State University in 2013, tempted by an offer from Mike Eicher, Senior Vice President for Advancement and President of The Ohio State University Foundation, who approached Rubin about the principal gifts job. “I went to an Italian dinner in Queens with Mike, we talked about Columbus, about potential, and the opportunity to make a great institution even better…and then I woke up at Ohio State,” she explains. Now Rubin leads Ohio State’s principal gifts program and develops comprehensive gift strategies with University leaders to improve opportunities for engagement. In this role, she has built a program that is driving record numbers of principal level commitments, and contributed to a culture ever more focused on the development of big ideas. This is consistent with Rubin’s record at all the institutions she has served. Throughout her career, she has embraced the opportunities, challenges, and unique needs of each role, and brought together teams for lasting, positive impact.
“Sara brings a preparedness to her work, which she choreographs as if it were a performance. She consistently looks around corners with the sort of discipline required to manage a large-scale production, which is invaluable for principal gifts.” – Bob Lindgren, President, Randolph-Macon College
Rubin believes that her stage manager background taught her something essential for her career in philanthropy: “As somebody from the theater, we were always prepared for the unprepared. It took me a while to translate that into my development work, but that’s what I would tell someone just starting out in this field. Being prepared matters.” Both Lindgren and Hill-Callahan credit Rubin’s theater background as critical to her success. “Sara brings a preparedness to her work, which she choreographs as if it were a performance,” says Lindgren. “She consistently looks around corners with the sort of discipline required to manage a large-scale production, which is invaluable for principal gifts.” Hill-Callahan agrees. “Sara is like a stage manager in her leadership,” she explains. “She processes complex information quickly, and brings the pieces together, as if she were directing a play.”
“Sara is like a stage manager in her leadership. She processes complex information quickly, and brings the pieces together, as if she were directing a play. ” – Patty Hill-Callahan, Vice President of Medical and Health Sciences Advancement, The Ohio State University
Rubin’s skills, vision, and dedication have opened doors, but she is quick to emphasize the importance of attitude above all. When asked for her best career advice, Rubin doesn’t hesitate: “Work hard and focus on your responsibilities – not promotions, money, or title. Do good work and those things will follow.”
“At INSEAD, we are fortunate to have a vibrant, highly engaged global network of alumni. They are generous with their time and expertise with our students, applicants, and the greater INSEAD community. They also are among our most loyal donors. Simply put, they are the school’s most ardent ambassadors.”
Professor Ilian Mihov is Dean of INSEAD and the Rausing Chaired Professor of Economic and Business Transformation. Prior to his appointment as Dean in October 2013, Professor Mihov served as Interim Dean and as Deputy Dean for Faculty and Research. He holds his PhD degree from Princeton University.
Professor Mihov joined the INSEAD Economics area in 1996. Since then he has taught macroeconomics and econometrics in the MBA, Executive MBA, and PhD programs, and has won the Outstanding Teacher Award multiple times. His research papers have been included in highly regarded academic journals such as the American Economic Review and The Quarterly Journal of Economics. Dean Mihov's leadership and dedication to the innovation of the business world has led INSEAD to being the top international business school, according to multiple sources. This success has led to a number of interviews for the BBC, CNBC Asia, Agence France Presse, Dow Jones Newswire, and many other newspapers and magazines. 5
From the Desk of...
Taking Your Fundraising Team International
Rebecca Parkes, Vice President, GG+A
International fundraising can complement an organization’s traditional efforts and greatly benefit an organization’s work – though it is essential to note that international fundraising is not appropriate or beneficial for every organization. Taking fundraising efforts beyond our borders must be done thoughtfully and systematically.
First things first: how does one know if an organization is ready to take its fundraising overseas?
This is a question that often arises in development team conversations, most often after hearing recent announcements of a large gift to an institution from an overseas donor or following the annual release of the Sunday Times “Rich List.” Upon hearing the success of other organizations, it is natural to wonder why their own wouldn’t find prospects, host events, and fundraise in China, Hong Kong, India, or Europe (or the US, depending on where the institution is located), or anywhere that pockets of wealthy philanthropists are located.
Beyond “should we or shouldn’t we,” here are a few key conversation starters an organization’s leadership must consider as it questions whether international fundraising is the right decision:
Staffing. How much time are you willing to have each person spend on this project? Who needs to make the time commitment – staff, volunteers, CEO, president or vice chancellor, everyone? How do you deploy or add staffing resources to support this effort?
Storytelling. What is your mission, and how will you articulate it to an international audience? Is it the same as the story and case for support deployed locally, or does it need to be adapted?
Fundraising.What is your fundraising plan? How do you make the effort successful financially for the organization? How will you go from building a network to securing gifts?
Committing. Is there enough of a donor base in the countries, regions, or cities you want to target? Has leadership made trips to the area? How have initial outreach efforts gone? Have you done the research and due diligence to be confident to jump all in?
If these questions have already come up and the answers have been discussed, that’s great – your organization is thinking strategically about the possibility of taking fundraising international. Below are four additional questions we think you need to consider. They should sound familiar but are meant to encourage every organization to look at the situation from all sides.
Does what we do matter to and resonate with international prospects?
This gets to the core of the case for support. You must explore in further depth whether your mission translates to an international donor or, if not, how it can be adapted. This is where you should work with program staff, academics, and other stakeholders at the core of what your organization funds to understand how your case for support might be attractive to international donors. In addition to the case for support, consider what the proposition might be. What exactly are you asking for from these donors? In most cases, this should be kept at the major and principal gift level in order to gain the largest financial return.
What is the best geography for us to focus on?
The answer can’t be everywhere. Organizations with international alumni should look where the largest groupings of alumni live. If no built-in alumni constituency exists, prospect research can provide support to understand the prospect base, where they are, how engaged they are, and where your international focus should be. You can also look into areas where your programs are based, annual foreign conferences that program or leadership staff attend, and the impact that your organization has on specific countries. Obviously, choose regions that have the closest affinity to your organization. We recommend starting with one or two foreign locations. It may be that focusing on a key city – as opposed to entire countries or regions – is best for your organization, so explore all possibilities. Your organization must also consider the culture of giving in each prospective country, their charitable tax laws, banking systems, and currency exchange needs.
Is there support from board members and local volunteers to engage in international fundraising?
Look at your board, trustees, and volunteer groups (alumni or otherwise) to see who is located in or has links to countries or cities where you are interested in fundraising. A lack of support from local volunteers may affect or sever their relationship with core local fundraising. If there are no current or potential volunteer links in the geographic area you hope to expand to, it will be difficult to build a basic network, let alone establish relationships strong enough to secure gifts.
How will we deploy our resources and invest our time?
This will be one of the most difficult questions to answer. Your organization will need a staffing plan, informed by the selection of foreign countries in which you have decided to fundraise. Based on your current staffing and budget, consider whether you need a dedicated staff person; whether you need someone based locally in your office who agrees to travel or someone based in the country or region of interest; whether you deploy an existing staffing position or use budget to add a new one; and whether you need staff members with particular language skills or cultural fluencies.
Lastly, no matter what the conversations around these topics yield, do not forget the time and energy this will require from your organization’s leadership. It will need to dedicate the necessary resources to this effort, so make sure it is completely on board in order to make the necessary commitment.
There is a lot to discuss and consider around such a significant decision for your organization. Remember this will be a substantial investment of both time and money, but it might be the right decision if you are able to align staffing, prospects, and appropriate philanthropic opportunities. If you have any questions about the points we’ve made or the questions we’ve posed, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Rebecca Parkes Rebecca Parkes, Vice President, GG+A, brings to the firm 12 years of experience in major and principal gift fundraising, strategic planning, board development and management, and campaign strategy and planning. Her work includes leading a strategic planning study for INSEAD and working with the University of Cambridge on the development of a gratetful patient fundraising program. Drawing on her extensive experience, Rebecca has provided a variety of consulting services to a wide array of additional organizations, including public and private universities, healthcare institutions, and international charities and nonprofits.