S&H: Set the stage: what are our alumni campaign goals? How are we doing?
D: We’re the envy of just about any other school for our alumni participation—on most any measure. So far we have about 630 donors to the campaign. They’ve given $1.5 million. Our alumni goal is $4 million, and part of me says that’s a really easy goal because they care so much about the school. I think it’s going to happen.
S: Especially after this weekend (The Centennial Reunion). It was the first time I got to see the alumni in action, all coming together. I saw a sort of fervor for the school, and a connection to each other that doesn’t go away. Our base is so tight.
S&H: How will the funds be targeted?
D: Our top priority is student support. With the school’s infrastructure built, now we need to invest in the students and faculty. About three quarters of our masters students take public and nonprofit jobs. Their starting salary is $58,000 and their student loan debt is close to $51,000. Our donors understand that student support is a direct way to have a huge impact, potentially for generations to come.
S&H: What’s something most people wouldn’t know about how a major fundraising campaign works?
D: It’s funny you ask because people I meet, whether they’re alums or others, they really seem to be interested in the process of fundraising.
S: Someone called it voodoo the other day. And I was like, really?? [laughing]
D: It’s not voodoo! I think it’s about relationships. You have to be able to help people understand how they can have impact—to connect them with the priority that’s going to make their heart sing.
S: I love my job. I have an impact on peoples’ lives. People ask me why I do this. My answer is that I don’t want students to walk out of here with crushing debt.
S&H: Has any particular gift really inspired you so far?
S: This is a difficult one for me to talk about in some ways. (Recently-deceased alum) Maggie Weston’s parents are creating an incredibly generous endowment in her name for students who are interested in ed policy.
D: The Ford School community had such an impact on Maggie when she was here, and that transferred to her parents.
S: This goes back to what makes us different. We as fundraisers didn’t reach out to anybody. It was Maggie’s classmates and other alumni who networked and said we want to do this in her honor.
S&H: Favorite moments from The Centennial Reunion?
D: I was not walking around with my hands out soliciting everybody…
S: For once! [laughing]
D: … But as I was meeting people, at least two found me and said you know, I really want to do something. They feel so strongly that they were saying, ‘call me.’ Every alum that I’ve spoken to so far has given us a gift. They just don’t say no. Dan Ginis, director of development, with Sonia Gill, major gifts officer Dan Ginis takes the ALS ice bucket challenge
Below is a formatted version of this article from State & Hill, the magazine of the Ford School. View the entire Fall 2014 State & Hill here.