The Art of Fund-Raising

The Art of Fund-Raising

ANN ARBOR, Mich.  — Tina Daniels gets resumes from people all the time as director of annual giving and reunion programs at the University of Michigan law school. 
“Everybody thinks they can be a fund-raiser,” she says. “They think it’s so easy to pick up the phone and ask for money.”
But few people have a clue as to what is really involved, she says.
“Fund-raising is a lot more than schmoozing,” Daniels says. “It’s a lot of work and strategizing.”
At this time of year, Daniels says it is also stressful because many university campaigns end on July 1.
“There’s the stress of wanting to meet your goal and excel,” she says. “You look at the calendar and see how many weeks you have left.”
Colleges and universities have come to rely on fund-raisers like Daniels as private and corporate money has come to replace shrinking federal and state funding.  Daniels says the money she and her colleagues raise is critical to the operation of the law school because it gets less than one percent of its funds from the university. The rest of the law school’s $34 million budget comes from private gifts and tuition.
Last year, Daniels and her staff raised $2.5 million in unrestricted funds, often the hardest money for a university to raise.
So how does Daniels raise money? Before fund-raisers call prospective donors, they must do research. 
“We look at so many factors,” she says. “What type of work they are doing, how long they’ve been working, how many children do they have, where do they live, how many boards does the alum sit on, do they have the capacity or the inclination to give?”
After she does her research, she calls the prospective donor to set up an appointment. Most alumni are happy to meet with her, she says, and when she asks them to give in often generous amounts, Daniels says most are flattered that she thinks they can give that much.
“There is no cookie cutter approach,” she says. “There is no set amount that you ask for. You have to build a strategy for each donor.
“Last month I went to visit an alum who had already given a reunion gift and he said he was going to make a larger gift and get his father, who was also an alum, to give a gift. It makes me feel good to see people support something that has had such an impact on their lives and been important to charting their career.”
People often have different reasons for giving to their alma mater.
“Some feel peer pressure,” Daniels says. “Some will say to me, ‘I have to see what others are giving.’ They don’t like to be outdone.”
And a few people won’t give.
“They’ll say, ‘Well my nephew didn’t get in two years ago. Or when you get rid of a particular professor then I’ll be happy to contribute.’ ”
Like others in fund-raising, Daniels fell into her career by accident. When she was graduating from Western Michigan University, the personnel director let her know about a position in the development office as the assistant director of alumni relations. She spent two years there and then went to work in public relations at Ann Arbor’s St. Joe’s Mercy Hospital in 1986.
But she missed higher education, and worked to get back into alumni affairs, finally landing a position at Northeastern Illinois University in 1990. In 1995, she went to work at Meharry Medical College, as assistant vice-president for alumni affairs, vowing this would be her last position working in alumni affairs.
“It’s a lot of work,” Daniels says. “And you have to be confident enough to be able to ask people for money. It’s really about building relationships. But it’s a wonderful job.  And every day is a different day. Because you don’t know who you’re going to talk to that day or who will decide to make that big gift.” 



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