Member Profile: Olivia Covington
Olivia Covington was recently hired as assistant director of development at the University of Iowa Center for Advancement, after spending a year learning the fundamentals of fundraising as a part of CASE’s North America Fundraising Residency Program.
Had you previously thought about going into a career in university fundraising and development?
Before graduating, I had never considered a career in fundraising. I received my Bachelor of Science in Human Services with the plan of becoming a counselor or social worker. I was introduced to development and philanthropy working as a student caller and then student supervisor at the Office of Development at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. Over this past year as a resident, it has been interesting to see how I’ve used skills that I've learned in the human services discipline to successfully apply them when interacting with donors and other fundraising professionals.
How did your residency prepare you for the next step in your career?
I had the opportunity to shadow my mentor and team members on donor visits. I organized special faculty and day of giving campaigns and assisted in event planning for the College of Engineering. My favorite campaign that I worked on was the We Are Phil: One Day for Iowa project for the College of Engineering. (“Phil” is short for “philanthropy.”) This year, we were able to raise over $18,000 within 24 hours and finished in the top 10 challenge areas.
What components of the residency program beyond your work at the university were most valuable for you?
The personal and professional development webinars, residency cohort, and access to resources and leadership were most valuable. In my experience, fundraising professionals with several years of expertise are open to being a resource to a newcomer to the field like myself.
The program's goal of helping diversify the workplace is something that was important to me because as donor diversity grows, so will fundraisers. As a fundraising professional, it will become important to be culturally aware and culturally competent. By diversifying the workplace, you can produce more ideas to help advance not only individual institutions but the world of philanthropy altogether.
What did you find helpful in attending the Diverse Philanthropy and Leadership conference in April?
I had the honor of being chosen as one of the Charles R. Stephens Scholarship recipients. Without the scholarship, I would not have gained valuable connections and useful tools to help advance my institution and career. The conference was packed with insightful sessions and networking opportunities with higher education and non-profit professionals. I’m grateful to AADO (African American Development Officers Network) and CASE for the experience and hope to volunteer for the conference next year in Atlanta.