About CASE
Anne Berry

This profile from the April 2004 edition of the BriefCASE newsletter highlights the career of longtime volunteer Anne Berry

Anne BerryAnne Berry, vice president for advancement at Lebanon Valley College, has dedicated more than 25 years to higher education at institutions such as the University of Pennsylvania and Tulane, and small liberal arts colleges, such as her alma mater, Franklin and Marshall College, and Saint Michael's College. She has also worked as an advancement consultant, doing campaign feasibility studies, advancement program audits, and volunteer training. Her current CASE activities include membership on the Commission on Philanthropy and on the District II Board of Directors.

How did you land your first job in higher education?
When I was a senior at Franklin and Marshall, I sat next to a man and his family on a train. He turned out to be a development officer at the college and gave me a ride back to campus from the train station. Then an F&M friend, Ken Gike (F&M '76), called and wanted me to get information on a job opening he'd seen posted at F&M for a development officer. So I went over to the development office and it turned out that the man I met on the train was the hiring officer! The more he talked about the position, the more I wanted it. So I applied for it and got it. Ken ended up working for Gary Evans at Lafayette so it all worked out! He forgave me for "stealing" his job.

Why do you love your work?
Because Lebanon Valley College is not in the Ivy League or heavily endowed, my job is harder here; it forces me to be a better advancement officer. Not all of our alumni are wealthy. My work makes a difference. If my team were not here, endowments and gifts would not just roll in, as can often be the case at a larger institution. I prefer this challenge to being at a more heavily endowed school. It all comes back to being mission driven. I also like the variety of my work, the creativity and energy it requires, the fact that I can see tangible results, and that I feel that I'm making a college education possible for people who might otherwise not be able to afford it.

Can you talk more about the challenges of advancement at a small college?
Some challenges are generic to advancement no matter what size the institution is, but at a small college, there is a smaller group of alumni to contact and our pool of prospective donors is limited. You don't have a mosaic of funding needs that a large university has, such as high-profile research or cutting-edge programs that a corporation or foundation might fund. Lebanon Valley College is primarily an undergraduate institution, so we're not at the upper, top-tier of research, but what we do-providing a quality liberal arts education-is still very important. A small, residential liberal-arts college provides a special experience.

At a small institution, the mechanics of my job as an advancement professional are definitely different than at the larger universities. At times I am working at the highest level with the president and board chairman on a major, seven-figure gift strategy, and then at other times I'm in the trenches. Right now, I'm working on a proposal for a foundation. I just picked up the phone to talk with the financial aid director about some statistics I need to make our case. That same director will want to know in a few months whether the college got the grant or not, and I'll be sure to include her on my call list when we hear from the foundation.

I went to a small liberal arts college, so this place feels like home to me. I chose that kind of education and in my career I keep coming back to it. Even when I was at Penn and Tulane, I worked in a subset of the university-not the central advancement office-I worked in the medical and business schools. I prefer the scope and size of a smaller organization. It allows me to have a more personal relationship with colleagues, students, and faculty than I would have in a larger institution.

You have a campaign at Lebanon Valley called "give a little, get a latte." Can you describe why it's worthwhile to ask for small donations?
This campaign is geared toward our younger grads. We hired a person, Jamie Cecil, in our annual fund whose previous experience was with an ad agency and she came up with the idea-it originated with Starbucks-after seeing another college use a variation on the theme. The campaign addresses the issue of how to get this group, the 10 youngest classes who are typically low givers, involved. It's part of our larger comprehensive campaign for $50 million. The challenge with young alumni is to find a way that their gifts-smaller by necessity-can be seen as having an impact in a large campaign.

Jamie saw some potential in a major building renovation project we're undertaking. We will be installing a coffee bar there, along with classrooms, faculty offices and common spaces. We know that young grads want to know-very specifically-how their money is going to be used. They want to see direct impact and don't want their dollars going into what they think is the "black hole" of a general alumni fund.

So Jamie came up with the idea of providing our youngest grads with a naming opportunity in Lynch Memorial Hall. The basic idea is that instead of naming the new coffee bar after one major donor, we're prepared to name it after the 10 youngest classes of alumni if they can contribute $50,000. They'll receive very visible recognition, even though many of their gifts will be in the $25 and $50 range.

The latte campaign has been performing well beyond our expectations. We're already seeing a significant increase in giving by the young grads, both in terms of participation and average gift. One of the best features of the campaign is called "Mug Shots." We had "Give a little, get a latte" coffee mugs made and have asked young alumni to take a photo of themselves with the mugs in a location that matters to them. They send the pictures to us over the Web, and we post them with news of what each young grad is doing. Our next mailing will have pictures of students asleep in the library while studying, with the headline "Wake this kid up! If you give, they'll have the caffeine they need." So, this is not your mother's alumni appeal.

What other ways does Lebanon Valley use the Web to keep alumni involved?
We use the Web for fundraising, but even more so for alumni reunions. For instance, we are creating Web pages for each reunion class, and inviting reunion alumni to send in current pictures, which we'll run next to their senior pictures. They'll also be able to post biographical information and messages to their classmates. We hope that it will help get people excited about seeing each other in June, and encourage our alumni to come back to campus. A vast majority of our alumni have access to e-mail now, so we send e-newsletters and event slide shows so they can see pictures of events they are unable to attend. We use the Web to keep our alumni involved as much as possible.

As another example, in 1961 a football player John Zola died as a result of a football injury. Forty years later, a group of alumni commissioned a bronze bust of him as a memorial to him. It's mounted in the garden just outside of the football team's locker room; they see the memorial as they head for the field each day. The campaign was conducted almost entirely by e-mail with just one initial letter. We designed a Web site for the project and kept updating it with news and photos as the sculpture was being fabricated and as the RSVPs poured in. What the Web did was give us a way to communicate with all of the interested alumni in a very personal way, without having to send out paper newsletters or personal letters every few weeks. The memorial was nearly a year in the making, and there's just no way we would have provided so many updates without the ease of using the Web.

All this is to underscore how important it is for communication on the Web to be personal, immediate, and chatty to make a strong connection.

In a recent CURRENTS article, "Lay of the Land," you commented that you have to work harder to maintain the same level of support from foundations. How do you keep foundations interested in supporting Lebanon Valley?
We have to show innovation and that's hard at the undergraduate level. We have to show effectiveness. The group of foundations that supports undergraduate colleges is smaller to begin with, so we don't get many opportunities to attract those dollars. We have to focus on what we do well when approaching foundations. Our music program, for instance, is extraordinary. It's one of the best in the country. The department is so strong and has expanded into innovative areas like music business, and music recording technology. We have a great track record and alumni of distinction, so that's something we highlight when we seek funding.

Lebanon Valley, like so many institutions, doesn't have national name recognition. It's unfortunate that many foundations only fund institutions that are already well endowed and well known. Why can't they take 10 percent of their education funding and put it toward emerging institutions? Instead they go for the easy solution: fund the known quantities. I want to say to them, "Visit some other institutions. Come out and see what's going on in higher education."

What is Lebanon Valley doing to engage and involve parents as potential supporters?
We solicit them, we involve them as volunteers, and we ask their advice. We even have parents on the Board of Trustees. I think parents are a remarkable source of energy and wisdom. Many colleges involve parents-not just Lebanon Valley College. When I worked at Saint Michael's College in Vermont, three of the top six capital campaign volunteers were parents. So I've learned not to underestimate the potential of parent involvement.

Here at Lebanon Valley, one parent whose daughter graduated two years ago is the chair of the Vickroy Society, our leadership giving group. Parents of current students are on our parents' council. We hold open houses on campus twice a year and have current parents talk to prospective parents. On move-in day, the parent's council gives out gift bags to parents with Kleenex, a water bottle, and a "keep in touch" card for the new parents to fill out with their student's e-mail address, advisor, mailing address, and an academic calendar. It's a personal, fun touch, and it provides something that the parents really need on move-in day.

How has CASE influenced your career?
My first vice president, John Synodinos, was involved in CASE in the late 1970s, and at a district conference, he really encouraged all of us-the young people on the F&M staff-to bond with his colleagues and friends, many of whom were vice presidents of other liberal arts colleges, such as Gary Evans, from Lafayette, and Sarge Whittier from St. Lawrence. Those VPs were little yentas, trying to fix us up on dates. While I laughed about it then, I now see that they were helping us develop professional networks.

The field has changed since then, with an influx of young people who have made advancement and development their careers from the start. It's been fun and very satisfying to grow up professionally as this business and CASE have matured. There is such a sense of community in this business, much of it fostered by CASE. As professional colleagues we don't compete-our alumni groups don't overlap-so we seem to share everything, and that is a great strength of our field.

You contributed a chapter to a CASE book, Attracting and Retaining Good Staff. What is the most important factor in doing this effectively?
In terms of hiring staff that will be effective and will stay, they must be mission driven and they need to have a lot of energy. I can teach them other things, skills they may not have, but they must be driven to do this kind of work. I'd also say a sense of humor is important. We work hard at Lebanon Valley College and we have fun too. And, finally, you must be motivated by something other than money. You're not going to get rich working at a small college.

What is the best advice you received during your career from a colleague or mentor?
John Synodinos used to remind me, "Don't worry about the next career step, do the best job where you are now." I've seen so many people start in this field with a "career track" mindset-two years in annual giving, then two years in major gifts, then two years as a director of development, etc. They spend so much time following a set path that they miss the interesting opportunities that come along, or they jump around from job to job. I've found that the best opportunities will present themselves. I've never really looked for a job seriously. I've just answered the phone. Nearly every job opportunity that's been presented to me has come about through my network of CASE colleagues and friends. When I started out, I thought I was going to work in higher education for a couple of years, then get an MBA and move on. But this work is what happened when I wasn't watching.