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“The trickiest donors are those who have this incredible passion but it’s just so incredibly narrow and we can’t make it happen. There are gifts you have to turn away because they just don’t align with the future of the institution.”
Nick started his career at University of Northern Iowa in Alumni Relations and before moving to Upper Iowa University to help launch the advancement shop from scratch. As a gift officer in a brand new advancement shop, he considered his role as more of a”discovery officer”. He learned about building and progressing relationships before asking for the big gift, and knowing your donors inside and out before engaging with them.
The hardest donors in Nick’s experience are the ones that are incredibly passionate but extremely narrow in their focus. It’s difficult to turn away from a donor when they don’t align to the future of the institution, but sometimes necessary.
“Because we’re a younger program, we’re not burdened by a lot of the legacy decisions that have be made. So we can be more nimble. But knowing what adjustments to make is still the challenge. What are the bets that are going to pay off over the next 3 – 5 years rather than just next year?”
Jay Davenport’s career spans admissions, fundraising, and leadership in both independent schools and large national universities. Through his varied experience, he’s seen a variety of leadership teams and strategies. He’s learned that it’s important to surround yourself with strong leaders that allow you to focus on strategy rather than how they’re executing, and the value of engaging mid-level managers to bring ideas from across the team to the forefront. At VCU, this has come in handy. VCU has the benefit of being a newer shop that allows for nimbleness without the constraints of legacy decisions.