RAISE Podcast: Matthew White, Utah State University

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On this episode of the RAISE podcast, Brent gets the scoop from Matt White, Vice President of Advancement at Utah State University. The RAISE podcast spotlights the folks in advancement who are thinking about things from a completely different angle and acting on opportunities to innovate. Matt is definitely one of those people. Under his leadership at USU, the team decided not to operate within the structure of a capital campaign. They did away with portfolios. And they repurposed their prospect research team and instead established Development Officer Analysts to team up with frontline fundraisers (and share their metrics and goals). Matt holds a PhD in public policy; has taught courses in non-profit management at the collegiate level; and has built, led, and inspired high-performing boards and teams. We have a theory that he has accomplished so much in his career thanks to a crazy work ethic that started in high school when he worked on farms baling hay and harvesting corn. Thank you, Matt, for rethinking ‘the way things are always done,’ for bringing new ideas into practice, and for sharing some of your hard-earned wisdom with us.

 

Here are some highlights from the episode…

Matt’s early career as a science teacher taught him how to hypothesize, experiment, and redirect efforts based on data. He takes this “test it out” approach to the fundraising strategy he builds with his teams, and it is paying off. (USU continues to increase fundraising year over year.)

Matt’s first fundraising experience was at the YMCA in Ferguson, Missouri. He became hooked once he realized that asking for money isn’t so taboo – and that donors reacted happily and gratefully to his asks because he was connecting their passions and goals with the needs of the community. 

And…Matt has never been yelled at for asking too much.

USU has cut ties with the traditional, 10-year capital campaign model. Instead, they continually identify people, programs, and projects that accomplish USU’s vision, and they run smaller, shorter “impact campaigns.” The impact campaigns are more measurable, accomplishable, and impact-focused, and they are building a sense of unity at USU.

When Matt arrived at USU, only 35% of donors in portfolios were being seen every year. So, he blew up the model and got rid of the barriers and silos of portfolios. His fundraising team has been more collaborative and cooperative (and raised more money) ever since. Plus, now he’s able to set and track individual and team goals with more accuracy.

As Matt reminds us, “cultivate,” “qualify,” and “solicit” are verbs. They’re not nouns. Forecasting individual and team goals within these categories doesn’t really work.

Want to work with Matt? USU is hiring! Keep an eye on their job postings or connect with Matt via email or on LinkedIn.

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