RAISE Podcast: Curt Simic, Indiana University

On this episode of the RAISE podcast, Brent chats with Curt Simic, President Emeritus of the Indiana University Foundation. These two have lots to discuss – including how to build trust with donors, Brent’s coincidental trip through Curt’s hometown, and an advancement leader’s responsibility to ensuring and empowering board diversity. Oh, and, the Four I’s:

  • IDENTIFY who cares
  • INFORM them of what you’re trying to do 
  • INVOLVE them in the process
  • And they will INVEST.
  • … and the apostrophe-s stands for STEWARDSHIP that never ends.

Catch some highlights and listen to the full episode here.



Some highlights from this episode…

“In those days, we were doing general mailings out and hoping for a 1.5% response.” Curt Simic reflects on how he followed  his mentor Bill Armstrong’s lead in to improve response rates by leaning into  constituency-based fundraising efforts built around the various schools within Indiana University. Oh, how times have changed!

“It was not a very even road.” Indiana University’s staff and student foundation solicited prospects county-by-county. Some counties were eager and responsive and others were not at all interested in participating.

“Expose students to philanthropy early in their lives.” As a member of the student foundation, and later a professional in advancement, Simic sees huge potential in building awareness and momentum for philanthropy while students are on campus. The base of giving rate for alumni is 17% but it is 68% for the student foundation. Why do students stop donating after they graduate?

“Do the right things the right way.” Simic traveled to different universities before returning to Indiana University, and throughout his travels he found that no program can thrive without the fundamentals in order.

“Diversity matters because it matters to the people you’re trying to communicate with.” Why would women or other people of diverse ethnicities trust a board if the only perspective present is that of older white men? Simic believes that a successful board takes many perspectives into account. One pathway to a more diverse board is to invite couples to join.

“Respect among and between leadership of the institution is a big deal.” With respect comes trust and collaboration. This is the road to improvement.

Mor about Curt… 

Curt Simic, President Emeritus, Indiana University Foundation, is widely recognized as a national leader in fundraising for higher education, management of foundations, and foundation-institution relationships. He has more than 40 years’ experience in all areas of development and alumni and external relations, at both public and private institutions of higher education.

As president of IUF from 1988 to 2008, Mr. Simic was the chief development officer for IU, responsible for oversight of all fundraising in a multi-campus development operation with centralized and decentralized functions; investment of the endowment; and development-related administrative services and infrastructure.

Under his leadership, fundraising for IU grew from $70 million a year from 60,000 donors to more than $270 million from over 120,000 donors. Since 1990, IU has ranked almost every year in the top 20, or top 2%, of colleges and universities in the nation in total voluntary support, the combined total of gift and non-governmental grant funds received by an institution in any given year.

Beginning his career at IUF as director of the annual fund and of the Student Foundation, Mr. Simic also served Yale University and the universities of Tennessee, Alabama, Oregon, and California-Berkeley, where he directed all fundraising efforts for the campus, including the largest fundraising campaign ever conducted at a public university at that time. 

In May, 2016 Mr. Simic was awarded Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by Indiana University.

Currently, Mr. Simic is serving on the Jacobs School of Music Dean’s Advisory Council, the Eskenazi Museum of Art National Advisory Board, the School of Public Health Bloomington Dean’s Alliance Council, the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy Mays Family Institute of Diversity in Philanthropy, the Kinsey Institute Director’s Advisory Committee, William E. Wiggins Fellowship Endowment Campaign Committee and Board of Associates for IU Student Foundation

Indiana University is hiring and has become part of a career ladder for development leaders across the country. Reach out to us and we will put you in touch with Curt to chat about life at IUF.

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