‘Call Yourself a Team’
Pace University is a private metropolitan university that has campuses in New York City and Westchester, N.Y.
The institution currently is in the midst of a $100 million campaign — the most ambitious fundraising effort in its more than 100-year history — to fund scholarships, support faculty, install state-of-the-art technology and facilities on campus, and improve its academic programming. Thanks in part to a $15 million gift from Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, the campaign had raised $65 million by the time it went public in late April.
Here, Laura Fredricks, vice president of philanthropy for Pace, discusses the institution’s fundraising programs and challenges.
FundRaising Success: Tell me about the fundraising program at Pace.
Laura Fredricks: Traditionally we raise about $10 million a year. And that’s through the annual fund, special events, scholarships. And then that gets added to how much we raise with the capital campaign, so in any given year that number can go from $18 million to $26 million.
FS: What is the major source of your funding?
LF: I would say alumni and friends.
FS: How do they give?
LF: In a whole variety of ways. We have about 117,000 alumni, so since we’re on a campaign, most of the people who’ve given us gifts or who have the potential to give us gifts, we talk with them, meet with them one-on-one and explain the three parts of the capital campaign and ask them individually. Some come in through, obviously, our direct-mail program. Some of the money we raise through our events. We have a mainstay event called Leaders in Management, which raises quite a bit of money; and then each of the schools and colleges, by and large, have their own event that’s specific to their school and college.
FS: What are some of the unique challenges you face at Pace?
LF: The budget and the staff to be able to go out and see [alumni]. It can be so frustrating; they’re such great people and, of course, you want to see just about as many as you can.
And being in New York, it’s very difficult because I think philanthropy is probably the hottest field right now. Everyone wants to get into it, and there are a lot of people looking for good people, good major-gift officers, really good leaders, institutional leaders in philanthropy as well as fundraising staff. So I think right now, people are moving around in jobs a lot, and it really hurts your donor base because they have great loyalty and attachment to you. We’ve been fortunate because I have people on my staff who have been here for a while and they like it and they stay.
FS: What are ways to rise above that challenge?
LF: If you’re leading your fundraising program, you really have to be a great mentor for [your] staff; constantly communicate. To the extent that you can, let your staff know exactly what’s happening because then they feel included; and when they feel included, they feel good and they stay, and they do a great job. When we go out and see alumni and donors, they want to know that we’re solid, that we really like what we do, we like who we do it with.
Stay positive. Always encourage the people you have. Talk to them. Also do some informational meetings and just be a great mentor. I think the more positive you are and the more you like [your job], the more you’re going to attract great people that want to stay with you.
And call yourself a team. You can be a team of two or four. We have a staff of 40, and when I came here I just said, “We’re going to be called ‘Team Philanthropy,’” and that’s who we are. We share in our successes, we share in our challenges. Everyone will hear at the same time what’s going on. I have a full staff meeting, everybody comes, including administrative assistants — and that applies no matter what size [organization] you are.