2020 has been an unusual year for all of us, both professionally and personally. We have seen more of our homes and less of our coworkers than we ever thought possible. We have experienced times of tremendous uncertainty, and we have persevered. Through it all, we each took on leadership in some fashion, and we looked to other leaders to assist us.
As we approach the holidays, it is the perfect time to reflect on what we are grateful for and appreciate those around us who have maintained a positive outlook. Our previous article discussed the challenges advancement leaders anticipated before the end of the year. This article reflects on the positive outcomes, the “silver linings,” that have come out of the past eight months.
Rhea Turteltaub, Vice Chancellor of Advancement at UCLA, sees positive outcomes in several areas. “Much as we are all eager to return to in-person interaction, I hope that when we are beyond the pandemic, we remember and retain the benefits of virtual connections: opportunities for remote working to afford our staff more flexibility, the capacity of remote learning to offer access to more students, and the capability of remote engagement to keep attendance at events, board meetings, etc. at the peak levels we’re seeing today.”
Steve Grafton, President of the Alumni Association at the University of Michigan, echoed the sentiments about engagement, saying that one of the silver linings is “the speed of moving into digital engagement,” citing increases of up to eight times the number of alumni participating in online activities as there were pre-pandemic.
JT Forbes, CEO of the Indiana University Alumni Association and incoming interim IU Foundation President, has been seeing a switch to “developing depth over breadth of relationships” and has found that “online meetings are allowing for deepened content and increased participation of Board members and alumni.”
Rob Kinsey, Assistant Vice President of Development at the Iowa State University Foundation, talked about the advantages of virtual donor visits. “We’ve allowed ourselves to be more creative in how we approach donors. There is an opportunity to be ‘in’ any state at any moment. This allows us to really focus on the gifts that are going to get us over the line.”
Taylor Gilmour, Assistant Vice President for Central Operations at Samaritan Health Systems in Oregon, stated, “Our team is working together in ways we had previously only dreamed of. We [now] have a system-wide relief fund, weekly team huddles, and the development team has balanced beautifully. We have a new team mantra, ‘We’re so flexible!’”
Tiffany Scaparotti, Assistant Dean of Development at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, remarked, “As fundraisers, we get to help people by getting money into the hands of the doctors and researchers that are doing incredible work and making a significant impact. Since the start of the pandemic, the various colleges and colleagues have come together in a shared way. There has been more collaboration and an elimination of competition between schools.”
Kevin Corbett, Executive Director of Learning and Performance for University Advancement at the University of Southern California, has found, “We are able to achieve surprisingly more using technology than we initially thought. We are learning to do more with less. Maybe we’ll modify the adage that you have to spend money to make money when this pandemic is more behind us.”
Caty Perez, Associate Vice President for Development at California State University, Fresno, discovered, “Development work has become democratized. We can interact with our alumni anywhere in the world equally. It helps graduates feel like they have the exact same sense of ownership. I think we will carry this through to the future.”
Kevin Crowe, Associate Vice President for Development at California State University, Long Beach, has found tangible bottom-line benefits. “Technology, such as DocuSign, has expedited the estate gifts process. I believe people have made time to think about their estate plans during this pandemic, which has helped our planned giving program. In addition, people really want to help our students. We had great success with our Student Emergency Fund crowdfunding campaign and continue to see donors wanting to support our students with the greatest need during this challenging time.”
Scott Ford, Vice President at Trinity Health in Fort Lauderdale, FL , observed, “The general population has a greater awareness of Community Hospitals and what they provide. This has given us the opportunity to educate donors who believe that the hospital system is flush with cash and has all the needed supplies.”
On the advantages of needing to build relationships in new ways, Steven Wallace, Associate Vice President of Philanthropy at City of Hope in Duarte, CA observed, “The word ‘pivot’ has been the priority in so many ways. People want to talk more about how they can help and continue to move the needle as philanthropic partners with the institution. Personally, I solicited a couple for a $1 million research concept via a Zoom conference call – and they said ‘Yes!’ In all my years of fundraising, I would never have thought, or felt it would be appropriate, to solicit anyone in this manner. So, the silver lining is that I have another tool in my tool belt.”
Do you have silver linings you would like to share? Please click here to email us your thoughts. Thank you to all the healthcare, higher ed, and nonprofit leaders who have generously shared their time and expertise.