Deans and academic leaders don’t always come to their roles with fundraising experience, or have the time to build up a fundraising toolbox. Instead, they’ll often partner with advancement colleagues to develop strategies and advanced fundraising techniques. As we gear up for CASE’s Advanced Development for Deans and Academic Leaders in January 2020, we sat down with Chair Shaun Keister, vice chancellor of development and alumni relations at the University of California, Davis, to hear more about the fundraising challenges facing deans today and what he’s most looking forward to at the conference.
CASE: Describe your career path. How did you get to your current role?
Shaun Keister: While I was a student at Penn State, I took a job as a student caller with the Annual Fund. I didn’t realize it then, but that job would be my launching pad for a fruitful career in development and alumni relations. After graduating, I began my professional career in advancement when I was offered the role of assistant director of Annual Giving at Florida State University. I was then recruited to Iowa State University where I spent 14 years in several different roles, with my last role as vice president of development outreach. After that I returned to Penn State and served as the assistant vice president of development before being recruited to UC Davis in 2011 to become its first vice chancellor for development and alumni relations.
CASE: What excites you the most about what you do?
SK: There are many things that keep me energized and passionate about our work, especially being able to connect donors’ interests with institutional priorities, and being a part of a university that is solving the most pressing challenges of our time.
Be humble in all you do and check the ego at the door. This is especially relatable to our industry because it is important to remember that it is about the donor, not us.
CASE: In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges deans face when working with their fundraising partners?
SK: With so many demands on their time, finding time for deans to do development work is a major challenge and obstacle to overcome. In addition to finding time to do development work, it is important to make sure that deans are focused on the highest level, highest impact donors and prospects.
CASE: What can advancement leaders do to mitigate these challenges?
SK: Advancement leaders should help deans prioritize their time, keeping them focused on the highest impact prospects and ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks.
CASE: What is the best piece of professional leadership advice you’ve received?
SK: Be humble in all you do and check the ego at the door. This is especially relatable to our industry because it is important to remember that it is about the donor, not us.
CASE: What book are you reading right now?
SK: Who can read adult books when they have a 5-year-old who asks them to read to her every night before bed? Given that’s my case, I am currently reading Ferdinand, a tale about Ferdinand the bull who would rather lie under the cork tree smelling flowers than play with other bulls.
CASE: What are you most looking forward to at Advanced Development for Deans and Academic Leaders?
SK: The great energy, synergy, and information sharing that occurs when you put many bright minds in a room together.