RAISE Podcast: Kim Nyoni, University of Nevada, Las Vegas

On this episode of the RAISE podcast, Brent breaks it down with Kim Nyoni, Associate Vice President for Development at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.  Kim was born in Tanzania and spent his early life in Nairobi, Kenya before he made the huge leap to attend the University of Nebraska. 

His move to Lincoln, NE marked a turning point for Kim, but his belief in the transformative power of education has remained a constant theme in his life that he has carried with him since childhood. After a brief stint in the sports marketing world working for Sports Illustrated, Kim has aligned himself with life-changing educational philanthropy at UC Berkeley, the University of Missouri, and now at UNLV, where he enables social mobility by raising support for the University’s many first-generation college students. 

Kim heads up teams as a servant-leader; he motivates fundraisers to be self-driven motors who balance operational excellence with mission-driven authenticity; and he is always seeking to empower his fundraisers with new tech tools that free them up to focus on the most important aspects of their work. Kim is a “bowtie enthusiast, an avid sports fan, a passionate advocate for higher-ed advancement,” and his vision for post-covid higher-ed fundraising is an inspiring example of what’s possible. He’s also an example that one can do well and do good at the same time, PLUS he’s a stellar podcast guest. Thanks for sharing with us, Kim!



Here are some highlights from the episode…

Kim’s father was raised in a rural village in Tanzania and he did not wear shoes until he was in highschool. He attended a seminary school, was quickly recognized for his academic talents, and was granted a full-ride scholarship at Cambridge University in London. Higher education transformed his father’s life, then Kim’s, and now Kim is a dedicated steward who pays forward the life-changing gift of education through his work in advancement.

After high school, Kim was admitted to law school in Australia but instead enrolled in his undergraduate degree at the University of Nebraska. Moving from a bustling African metropolis to Lincoln, Nebraska brought some culture shock, to say the least. But in his words, Kim met some of the kindest and most supportive classmates, professors, and friends during his years at UNL.

After navigating a number of job changes throughout his career, Kim reminds us to not let the dollars be the main factor that influences a career move. Instead, focus on how the institution’s mission, vision, and values align with yours. Salary is a factor, yes, but money ultimately doesn’t compensate for the discontent if you land at an institution whose culture, end product, and means of getting there are in contrast to who you really are.

Kim often reminds his team that if they do their work for UNLV with the University’s mission as their primary driver, the revenue will come as a natural by-product. As a result of this leadership approach, he has a team of fundraisers who are 100% dedicated to UNLV’s students, and they consistently hit their operational metrics. That’s the magic!

What are the best fundraisers in the nation up to at 2pm on a Tuesday afternoon? In Kim’s opinion, they are planning out that afternoon’s phone calls and emails to folks in their portfolio who have been quite for three months. They are planning Wednesday’s follow-ups on active proposals. They are outlining Thursday’s discovery outreach, and Friday’s stewardship check-ins. Essentially, they are self-motivated “motors” who are constantly thinking ahead.

Kim points out that higher-ed has a bad habit of throwing more fundraisers at a campaign and hoping for the best. But that approach doesn’t necessarily accomplish the goal of an institution. When equipped with the right training and tools, fundraisers are very good at cultivating the major gift prospects in their portfolio. But, what about the other 98% of prospects? 

Rather than hire 30 new gift officers, Kim suggests a more strategic investment in the technology and infrastructure that can automate prospect discovery, facilitate portfolio management, scale personalized outreach deeper into the donor pyramid, and build MGO pipeline. In other words, ditch the top-heavy approach and embrace a holistic, long-term strategy.

In Kim’s eyes, we just experienced a once-in-a-lifetime universal adoption of technology. Many donors are more flush with cash than ever. There’s an even more acute need to support promising students who face financial barriers. Everyone is looking to advancement to bridge the opportunity with the gap that COVID delivered. It’s a prime recipe for optimal philanthropy work, and we don’t have years to deliberate how best to take advantage.

Want to keep being inspired by Kim? Connect with him on Twitter or email him at kim.nyoni@unlv.com.

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