RAISE Podcast: Dr. Marc Barnes, Dillard University

Marc Barnes

On this episode of the RAISE podcast, Brent gets the inside scoop from Dr. Marc A. Barnes, VP of Institutional Advancement for Dillard University. Check out this recap featuring our favorite takeaways from the episode, and how to tune in yourself!




Here are some highlights from the episode…

Marc didn’t find advancement. Advancement found him. In a bank.

He recalls how the first thing Ray Charles said to him when Marc picked him up on the tarmac as a young Dillard advancement professional was, “Hey man, wanna see my airplane?” They were friends by the time they got to campus.

Marc explains how he and President Kimbrough have brought the University from 50% to 90% student retention through the establishment of the SAFE (Student Aid for Financial Emergencies) Fund.

He remembers Hank Aaron as “a phenomenal supporter of HBCUs, a great baseball player, and an even better man.”

Marc admits that his current role as VP of Institutional Advancement was the first job he ever applied to. Marc reflects on why McKenzie Scott’s $5M unrestricted gift to Dillard represents a sea change in philanthropy. 

About Dr. Marc… 

Dr. Marc A. Barnes was not always an AFP “Outstanding Fundraising Professional,” or a nationally-recognized top HBCU leader. Long before these advancement accolades, Marc found his first career love as a bank teller. His early affinity for banking was so apparent that his boss enrolled him in a year-long management training program during which he learned everything about banking, from retail management to loan underwriting to credit reviews. He became a branch manager at the age of 26.

An early lesson in Marc’s career: it pays off to demonstrate to your boss that you are passionate about your craft.

As fate would have it, the bank Marc worked at was right across the street from Dillard University. Over time, he got to know bank clients Dr. Michael Lomax, the former president of Dillard, and Love Collins, Dr. Lomax’s then-VP for Institutional Advancement. The two Dillard leaders recognized Marc as an outstanding bank employee, and they decided he would likely make for an even more awesome fundraiser. So, Lomax and Collins worked steadfastly for months to recruit him to join the advancement team at Dillard.

But Marc wasn’t so sure. His first hang-up was that he had no idea what development was. And his second was that he went to undergrad at Xavier, a cross-city rival of Dillard. Plus, in Marc’s own words, he “didn’t want to beg people for money for a living.”

VP of Advancement Love Collin’s response to Marc’s hesitation was pretty perfect. Collins said “Every time I come into this bank, you ask me if I need a loan application. You ask me if I need a credit card application. You ask me for money every time I come in here. Why not do that for somebody’s life in which you will really make a difference?”

How could he say no to that?

Getting his start in Advancement…

Marc eventually joined Collins on the Dillard University Advancement team and kicked off a fundraising career that is 21-years-strong, and counting.

On this episode of the RAISE podcast, Dr. Marc Barnes shares his highlights and lessons learned from a star-studded fundraising career. He reflects on his intensive early training as a Kresse Foundation Advancement Fellow and how role playing helped him fine-tune the art of in-person solicitations. He talks about the importance of good writing, and his constant hearkening to his English major days at Xavier. He recalls the physical and emotional exhaustion of working to rebuild campus in the aftermath of Katrina, and how it led him to take a “Dillard sabbatical” to work for the NOLA Jazz & Heritage Foundation.

Marc spent a few rejuvenating years working to bring life back to New Orleans through Jazz Fest, celebrating the brick-and-mortar establishment of the Heritage School of Music for young musicians, and getting to know the philanthropists, artists, influencers, and members of his NOLA community through a totally different lens. And then, Marc learned that Dillard was hiring for a new VP of Institutional Advancement. Up until this point, all of Marc’s career opportunities landed serendipitously in his lap. Marc submitted the first job application of his professional career.

Marc brought the Jazz Fest magic with him back to Dillard’s campus. He worked to establish the SAFE Fund which has since raised over $4M to support thousands of students who would not have been able to graduate due to outstanding tuition balances. Under his leadership at Dillard, alumni giving participation has increased from 4% to 23%. The University repaid a $120M rebuild loan and is now debt- free. His relationship with the Ray Charles Foundation has brought in several million dollars to Dillard. His wins and successes are many.

With Dr. Barnes at the helm, the small but mighty Dillard advancement team has been strategic but entrepreneurial. They’ve built new stuff. They’ve iterated on their approach. And through it all, they’ve stayed closely connected to what it’s all about: the students.

This podcast episode is heartening and hopeful. And helpful! Thank you, Dr. Barnes, for sharing your story with us. We can’t wait to see you at Crawfish Monica someday soon.

Dillard University is hiring! Want to work with Dr. Barnes? He can be reached on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, or by email at mbarnes@dillard.edu.

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