The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) has recognized Fordham’s Development and University Relations (DAUR) division with a 2019 Educational Fundraising Award for sustained excellence in fundraising programs. CASE awarded the recognition this past spring as Fordham was closing in on its goal of raising $175 million for Faith & Hope | The Campaign for Financial Aid. The award, based on a blind analysis of fundraising data, places the University’s advancement effort among the top 90 colleges and universities in the nation.
“Your institution has not only demonstrated the highest levels of professionalism and best practice in its fundraising efforts, it has contributed to the betterment of educational advancement worldwide by serving as a model to which others can aspire,” wrote CASE president and CEO Sue Cunningham in the award letter.
DAUR, led by Vice President Roger A. Milici, Jr. since 2010, is responsible for all University fundraising; alumni relations; special events; and marketing and communications, including the publication of Fordham News.
While the award was granted this fiscal year, it is based on accomplishments from three previous years. The total amount raised during those fiscal years was $45.6 million in 2016, $75.8 million in 2017, and $49.5 million in 2018. Though not part of the analysis, Milici said the University closed this fiscal year at $67.1 million raised in gifts and pledges. It’s the pattern of growth in total support that helped Fordham garner notice from the judges, along with breadth and diversity of sources from which funds were raised.
For Milici, the win represents the evolution from a young and evolving advancement program to one that is on the cusp of becoming truly mature.
“It’s a point of pride in that it’s a total team win,” said Milici. “I think the recognition is especially poignant because it doesn’t talk about only the total number of gifts and pledges raised, but the continuity and systemic growth.”
The citation calls attention to the workings of a behind-the-scenes department that often deflects attention. But, Milici, along with Senior Executive Director of Development Robert Smith, pulled back the curtain to discuss vital strategies that brought about the award and keep the University competitive.
“None of this would be possible without receptive alumni and friends,” said Milici.
He noted that the pace and variety of campaigns must interest a range of donors on several levels, from fostering first-time donors in the Fordham Fund to continuing to pique the interests of large donors.
“It takes an evolving, mature operation to have that type of depth of prospects, so that you’re not just continuously returning to a small group of core donors to satisfy the campaign,” said Milici. “You’re constantly refreshing that pool so that even as the campaign ends, you interest newer donors.”
Milici said development must provide “a menu” of opportunities to give and it should be one “that elicits emotion and provides resonance.” But ultimately, he said, people give to trusted leadership, from the president to the provost to the faculty and staff and coaches. That trust is based in part on an assurance that the monies given will be used as the donors intended.
“We are trying to build long-term relationships, I like to call them ‘mission partners,’ whereas Father McShane [Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham] calls them ‘colleagues in ministry,’” said Milici. “The point is the same: these are people who believe in what the University stands for that they are in full partnership with us.”
Milici said he embraced the challenge of reaching out to Fordham’s diverse community, which includes three undergraduate colleges and graduate schools that range from law to social service. He said that while fundraisers may appeal to each of these groups in different ways, “the University mission arches over everything.”
The CASE award, he said, is something donors can feel good about.
“To be acknowledged by the industry is important and something that we should all take pride in. I think the message to our donors is that we are a well-run program,” he said.
Keeping the division operating at high performance levels falls to a variety of teams that includes research, which helps the university better understand donors and their interests, as well as Advancement Services and Advancement Technologies, said Smith.
“Part of our job is to make sure mutual understanding between the University and the donor are clear, what their expectations are of us, and vice-versa,” he said.
“I think the award also speaks to how donors come to trust what it is that we’re going to do as an institution with the gifts that they have given to us,” he said. “Over the years, we have strived to clearly lay out what those expectations are.”
It’s in that spirit of intent that gift agreements must be carefully worded, he said. And they must be forward-thinking.
“We not only need to understand what we are going to be doing in 2019, but what our successors are going to be doing in 20, 30, 100 years from now,” he said. “When we are setting up an endowed scholarship, we have to think about how funds generating income in perpetuity are going to be used 10 years, 50 years, or even 100 years.”
“We have to think about making sure that we can, in the future, follow the donor’s intent,” he said.
He added that Fordham fundraising is a far cry from its past.
“Before Father McShane started, it was a very, very well-defined group of donors with whom Fordham tended to continually engage,” he said. “With Father McShane, we really began a much more concerted and sophisticated effort to reach out to many more alums that previously had not had any contact with the University in any way—not through communications or alumni relations, let alone philanthropy. Today, we have built a community of mission investors that includes students, their parents, alumni, and friends.”