This edition of Currents offers a feature story on the importance of faculty partnerships in philanthropy. Here, we look to a community college development director, who fosters a culture of faculty involvement, to share her thoughts and tips.
How do you develop relationships with your faculty? It’s very similar to the way I develop relationships with donors. The first couple of visits are exploratory. [I ask,] “What about your program is most compelling? Where are you looking to expand? What are your needs for students?” My job is to connect the dots, which often means connecting people.
I met with the chair of the music department and learned the piano lab had not been updated in 15 years. The students would bring in their flash drives with the music they were working on, but the electronic keyboards could only take floppy discs. Well, you can imagine!
Serendipitously, two weeks later, I made a presentation to a family foundation. They asked, “What are your needs in the area of music?”
And just like that, they fully funded new pianos and keyboards. That happened because of relationship building with faculty. If we don’t have their stories, when the opportunity comes up, we can’t make [that support] happen.
What role do your faculty play in interactions with donors?
I open the door and simply ask them to share their stories in ways that connect with the vision of the donors. If there is an “ask” involved, I assure them that’s my job. But in many instances, if we are doing our job well, we don’t have to ask. At the end of a compelling story, a donor will say, “I want to be part of this.”