At EverTrue, we are working with all-star nonprofit institutions, from higher-ed schools like Union College to independent schools like Millbrook (both located in New York state!). Despite the differences in the way these schools approach fundraising, they all have at least one thing in common: building relationships is at the heart of what they do.
We recently launched this series, a “Day in the Life,” to learn more about the way fundraisers and prospect researchers from institutions across the nation build meaningful relationships with alumni. We learned a lot from Martha Hargrove at Albuquerque Academy and Steffanie Brown at Florida Tech, and are excited for this new post featuring Mike Meech, a leadership giving officer at Brown University.
Although Mike has only been working at his alma mater for a few months, he already has a lot of important insights to share. We connected with Mike to discuss his position at Brown and what makes him tick as a fundraiser. Read the interview below!
Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you ended up at Brown.
I graduated from Brown in 2005 and married a Brown graduate. We lived in Baltimore, Maryland for nine years but always wanted to move back to New England. Last summer we decided to take the plunge and move back to the area. I wasn’t initially looking for a job at Brown, but the opportunity presented itself and I had previously been working with charitable groups, family foundations, public charities, and professional athletes with their charitable giving. Coming back to Brown, a place that I loved as a student, and being able to give back and contribute to growth of the school was a neat opportunity and something that was exciting to be a part of.
What does a typical day look like for you? If there is such a thing as a typical day…
In my role I am typically out of the office seeing alumni. There is a lot of scheduling, planning, and setting up trips. I go to down to New York about two or three times a month, so it is a lot of logistics and outreach to reach my pool of prospects. After going down and seeing them in person, my job consists of a lot of follow up and reporting once I am back in the office. There is also a fair amount of ongoing training.
Basically, my day consists of a lot of planning, setting up meetings, coordinating, and rescheduling. When you’re trying to meet up with really busy people, cancellations are common. It involves a lot of logistics, which is definitely a tough part of the job. Trying to see seven or eight people over the course of two days in New York can be difficult as schedules are constantly changing. This winter in particular was terrible with all the snow impacting travel plans and peoples’ schedules.
Would you say that is your greatest challenge as a fundraiser?
Yes, scheduling and coordinating is a big part of the challenge. And then finding people’s interests and meeting their needs once you have meetings scheduled is another hurdle to overcome. Similarly, connecting these people with programs and initiatives on campus that are of interest to them is another step that is challenging as well.
You also never know what you are going to walk into. Once I had a meeting with an alum who barely said anything to me. He wouldn’t engage with me at all! He didn’t seem interested in being there and actually told me he never wanted to meet again. However, he did say he wanted to support a capital campaign that we are launching in about nine months.
A surprising success story! So what would you say is the most rewarding part of your job?
Just that it is fun and interesting work. You get to meet successful and interesting people. I really enjoy learning about what people are doing career-wise and personally. It is fascinating to learn what people are doing now, especially when it is really different than what they were doing at Brown. People are often still very passionate about all the things they did at Brown even though they currently don’t have time to pursue those interests as much.
How does GivingTree play a role in your day-to-day operations?
The GivingTree tool has been fantastic. The job involves a lot of logistics and scheduling, so being able to look at all your prospects on a map is great. GivingTree enables me to target certain areas of interest and identify people that I did not originally plan to meet up with but who would be complementary to meet with at the same time. We are on the road a lot, so the GivingTree interface has been great. Being able to pull it up on my phone or on my tablet is really nice.
Can you tell us about a time that GivingTree was particularly useful?
I can think of a few instances when GivingTree was really handy. Once I had set up a meeting with an alum, and after a great meeting, he told me he was going to go grab someone else in the building, another Brown alum, to come meet with me. I was curious about who this person was, so I pulled up the GivingTree app and easily found out how old this person was, when he graduated, and what he studied. In this last minute situation, GivingTree enabled me to access information really quickly and have some idea of who I was going to be speaking with.
Any words of wisdom for other fundraisers?
Never go in expecting to know what someone is going to be interested in. We have profiles on people that include what career they are in and what they studied—so you can kind of imagine what they are interested in—but often you learn that their interests are very different than what you anticipated. You can never be sure what people are most likely to engage with, so definitely go into meetings with an open mind.