About CASE
David Shufflebarger

This profile from the June 2004 edition of the BriefCASE Newsletter highlights the career of longtime volunteer David Shufflebarger

David ShufflebargerDavid T. Shufflebarger spent 25 years in higher education advancement at Old Dominion University, Valdosta State University, and Virginia Military Institute before he joined Atlanta-based Alexander Martin & Haas, in 1994. He is now a managing partner at the firm, which provides philanthropic consulting services. Shufflebarger is an active CASE member and has often spoken at CASE and National Association of Independent Schools conferences. He was one of the main authors of College and University Foundations: Serving America's Public Higher Education, published by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

How did you get your start in higher education advancement?
I began my somewhat checkered career as a newspaper reporter in Norfolk, Va. and was PR director for a state agency in Richmond when a colleague became the governor's press secretary. The folks at Old Dominion University in Norfolk were searching for a director of university relations at that time and they called my colleague to ask if he was aware of someone who "knows PR and his way around the state capitol." I happened to be in his office that day and he said, "Yes, he's standing right next to me" and handed me the telephone. That was the beginning of my career in higher education. I have loved almost every minute of it.

I arrived on campus for my interview the day the Kent State shootings occurred. There were protest rallies and peace songs as I toured the campus the next day, and blasting caps had been thrown against the doors of the ROTC building the night before. When I met with the university president he asked me if I wanted the job and I said yes. He was a great president of a great institution.

How did you make the transition from higher education to consulting?
I became interested in consulting through my experience with CASE. Teams were formed in the mid-'80s in response to requests from universities and colleges that wanted assistance with their development programs. Northern Arizona University was one we visited. We spent a few days there to give them a series of recommendations, a diagnostic look at their fund raising and development-it was a mini-audit of their program. Back then retirement was mandatory at 70 and I remember thinking "When they throw me out as a campus vice president, I'd like to do this." In 1994 I was looking at vice presidencies on campuses in Massachusetts and Texas, and Del Martin, our executive vice president, got Doug Alexander to call me about joining the firm. My bride of 36 years said, "Look old fellow, it's a whole lot better when they call you about a job than your going there hat in hand at age 70."

Do you miss working with just one institution or is being a consultant equally rewarding?
When I started they said, "We know you're a one-woman man and a one-institution man, but now you'll get to know and love a number of institutions." And I did. But there is something special about a campus, about being a part of a campus, a college, committed to an institution. I miss that sometimes-being on just one campus. But I travel enough to a variety of schools to still get a flavor of it.

What are the most important qualities that an advancement professional can have?
My experience spans alumni relations, development, public relations, and government relations and for many years I was vice president overseeing all of these flavors. Speaking of all these disciplines, the one key thing you must have, the most important thing is a passion for higher education. This is critical. If you don't feel strongly about the institution you are working for, this is a problem because it will color your every interaction. The university or college depends on you to be its advocate, to feel deep down that it is a worthy cause, a worthy goal. If you work in communications, you won't communicate as effectively if you don't have passion, and the same holds true in alumni relations or working with philanthropists. Your success will come from your passion for higher education. Second, it's important to continually be educated. The more education the better, both advanced degrees and the ongoing learning that comes from CASE's continuing education programs. As an advancement professional, if I say I believe in higher education, well then I need to pursue it, I need to live it.

What are you most proud of?
I hope I had an impact through my passion for the work. I loved what I did. At Old Dominion, I had a role on the legislative side-in a public policy issue-when Virginia was wrestling with inequities in tuition at the various institutions. I wrote a position paper outlining a more equitable model. It was adopted and there were zero tuition increases the next year at Old Dominion. The students had a rally and presented me with a piggy bank and said, "Thanks for saving us." I still have that piggy bank in my office.

Some of your clients are arts and healthcare organizations. What can other fund raisers learn from them?
While we see a few alumni and friends-outside of athletics-who are genuinely passionate about a college or university or their school or department within the college or university, we see that even more frequently in the arts. And in higher education, we tend sometimes to be so overjoyed by finding someone with great passion that we don't work as hard to heighten it. Conversely many arts groups work very hard and very astutely with their most passionate supporters to bring them even closer. And, we all know that a few folks with passion for a cause can make a huge difference.

In healthcare, many hospitals have perfected "grateful patient" development programs in partnership with physicians. While this includes university hospitals, we see some of the strongest programs at hospitals outside of academic settings. The key is the partnership with physicians. While there are notable exceptions, for the most part we in higher education have not established nearly as effective partnerships with faculty in identifying grateful alumni. Also, most folks in the arts and healthcare have a more immediate, recent, and recurrent experience with the organization than do most alumni and friends in education, thus colleges and universities may have to work harder at engaging folks, unless they are involved in continuing education, whose experiences are 20 to 30 years old.

Any memorable anecdotes from your years as a CASE volunteer?
Well, this was actually pre-CASE, I think and [founder of CURRENTS and former president Virginia Carter Smith] and I were both in Virginia, both in public relations. Let me tell you she could convince anyone to do anything! She was in the western part of the state and I was in the eastern. There was a conference in Richmond and she called me at 10 p.m. to go to the airport and pick up some folks who were going to speak and drive them to Richmond. Well, the plane was late and I waited and waited until well after midnight. Come to find out she got her signals crossed-they weren't coming in after all. So I could always use a little guilt on her when I needed a favor. I'd call her and say, "Ginny, you know I'm still tired from being at the airport until way after midnight." The truth is I loved her to death because she was so giving. Most of us owed her favors. She was also an incredible advocate for women. She and I networked for years on career opportunities for women.

Given your years of involvement with CASE, what do you see as its strengths?
We were so disparate before so the move to unify various groups, unifying the field, was so positive. And it is a continual challenge. The fact that CASE is working to strengthen research and scholarship is impressive, so that we can build a common body of professional knowledge. The increased professionalism in how CASE is meeting the needs of diverse members, older and younger, who have many different needs, is a definite strength. CASE is not perfect, but compared to other national organizations CASE has done a fine job.