RAISE Podcast: Dale Wright, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

On this episode of the RAISE podcast, Brent learns from Dale Wright, Associate Dean and Chief Advancement Officer at the Grainger College of Engineering, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Dale talks about his journey from a rural upbringing in Kennett, Missouri to a life-altering experience in the Boys State program, to induction to the secret Mystical 7 society at Mizzou, to his experience with the Homecoming Committee that launched his advancement career. Dale reflects on the privilege of working as a young fundraiser with Jim and Cathy Brazeal who established the Brazeal Honors College Endowed Diversity Scholarship Fund. Together, they worked to not only improve the diversity of incoming students at Mizzou, but to improve the experience of diverse students. Brent has been following Dale on LinkedIn ever since he shared a heartfelt invocation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “The Drum Major Instinct” sermon last June. Thank you, Dale, for sharing your voice and your vision as a true Servant Leader on this episode of the podcast.



Here are some highlights from the episode…

Dale was elected as Mayor of a Boys State program during his junior year of highschool. The one-week experience gave him life-changing confidence and the affirmation that he could return back to his rural hometown and dream big for his post-graduation life.

When Dale landed at Mizzou, he recognized and connected with other students in Boys State shirts and began to realize the importance and value of cultivating networks. 

As a senior at Mizzou, Dale was elected as a member of the “Mystical 7”, a secret society of seven students dedicated to doing good work underground to make Mizzou a better institution. 

Dale agrees that magic happens when people can get in the same place with each other. BUT, he also agrees that the days of Low ROI development officer travel (i.e. an expensive trip to a far-off city to conduct discovery visits) is now a thing of the past. There are meetings that can be done better, more efficiently, and more effectively via Zoom. Looking ahead, a hybrid approach will be the name of the game. 

Dale started off in advancement on the alumni relations team. He thanks his alumni relations experience with his deep and broad knowledge of Mizzou. As he points out, as an alumni relations officer, you have to be an ambassador for the whole Mizzou experience: for alumni parents of prospective and admitted students; for young alums in need of career counseling; for experienced alums looking to give back; and for every alum and friend of Mizzou in between.

Dale is a champion of perpetual stewardship. He walks the walk of stewarding donors before, during, and after a donation is made.

Dale describes gift officers in 2021 as the conductors of the orchestra. They can and should fold seamlessly into the donor relationship the Dean, the athletic director, the student athlete, the clinic director. All of this can be conducted even more smoothly with the help of Zoom. In this way, the gift officer can ensure an abundant network of connections with a donor. (And a side benefit of building this network is ensuring that the donor relationship can continue even in the event of gift officer turnover). 

Dale has been empowered in his career to be innovative with his teams by asking, “What would happen if…?” 

Dale agrees that we are in a unique moment in philanthropy in which the capital available for impact is more than ever before. Over the past year, there has been tremendous wealth creation in certain sectors, and it’s taken place in concert with social justice, a pent-up desire for impact, and the realization that wealth can be used to solve big problems.

Want to work with Dale to solve some big problems? The University of Illinois is hiring! Connect with him on LinkedIn.

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