Emory Report
September 17, 2007
Volume 60, Number 4

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September 17, 2007
‘Friend-raising’ is key

By kim urquhart

Susan Cruse, senior vice president for development and alumni relations, is charged with leading a new era of fundraising at Emory to support implementation of the University’s ambitious 10-year strategic plan for academic and campus development. Since Cruse’s arrival on campus in July, her energetic and enthusiastic leadership is transforming Development and Alumni Relations, the new division formed by the restructuring of Development and University Relations, as it gears up for a comprehensive campaign.

In an interview with Emory Report, Cruse discussed her vision for fundraising and alumni relations.

You’ve held senior fundraising positions at Johns Hopkins, UCLA and the University of California, Irvine
What attracted you to Emory?

Cruse: The vibrancy of very strong college and professional schools and a renowned academic medical center is exciting. What really set Emory apart for me, though, was the leadership team. There is tremendous vision and commitment to making an impact in the world. The strategic plan also was very attractive to me because I’ve not seen many universities put the effort into a strategic plan to chart the course for an organization. That’s going to set Emory apart and I wanted to be a part of advancing that vision. These aspirations are being harnessed in a way that I think is going to lead to great success across the board.

What is the state of philanthropy in the United States today?

Cruse: The donors are changing. There’s lot of talk about the transgenerational transfer of wealth, but the reality is we’ve been getting bigger gifts for bigger ideas.

Is that true in philanthropy in general or specifically in higher education?
Cruse: I’ve seen it played out more in higher education. It’s interesting too that we have a whole generation of philanthropists that have no history, or family history, of philanthropy. What they do want is impact, and they are much more personally involved than philanthropists of a generation or two ago. Now, I think that philanthropists see themselves more as investors where they want a successful outcome. They’ve decided what they want to invest in and they want to partner with the institution that will provide the best return on that investment.

How does Emory fit in with this trend?
Cruse: Emory is positioned well to take advantage of this trend. Just a few examples: There is promising research at Yerkes National Primate Research Center that will have ramifications for Alzheimers and Huntington’s disease; we have some phenomenal opportunities in faith-based and mission nursing; we are becoming leaders in predictive health; the Goizueta Business School has an innovative leadership program; and the libraries are creating a new model for research by integrating print, digital and multi-media resources to support the creation and dissemination of knowledge. These are all areas where you can come up with a really big idea that captures a donor’s interest because of the potential impact. Emory also has some specific initiatives that may involve several different schools or units, offering a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach to complex problems.

When you meet with friends and prospects, how do you tell the Emory story?

Cruse: Emory is unique, it’s a very dynamic institution. For a Research I university, there is a very strong emphasis not only on the intellect but also on the spirit. I think that is a differentiator for Emory. There are discoveries happening in the health sciences, in law, in business, in the arts and the humanities, and so there’s a lot to invest in here. There is a wonderful team of people who are working collaboratively on very comprehensive solutions and looking for solutions within an ethical and moral context.

Much of the focus when it comes to fundraising and development is on dollars. Are there opportunities for alumni, faculty, staff and students to contribute?
Cruse: Our students, our faculty, our staff and our alumni are doing wonderful things in the community. They are among our most effective representatives. Look at Professor of Psychology Drew Westen whose book “The Political Brain” has sparked discourse across the nation, or poet and professor Natasha Trethewey who won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. They’re just doing their job, but everything they do reflects well on Emory and the programs that we have here. Once people see what is happening here and the impact that our faculty, that our students are having, it’s hard to get them not to want to jump aboard either with donations or talking about it in the community, perhaps connecting us with other sources of funding. Our alumni are critical to this program. We look at our alumni as our advocates, both in what they do consciously for the University, and by the example they set of what an Emory education produces. They’re mentors, they hire our students and they’re role models. The Emory Alumni Board has taken a leadership role in the campaign with a resolution to fund two scholarships, one for an undergraduate and one for a graduate student. The EAB has made an early, visible statement of support for an important campaign objective.

Emory is in the silent phase of a comprehensive campaign to invest in its academic and research programs and the physical environment. How does private philanthropy sustain these efforts, and what will the campaign mean for Emory?
Cruse: It means a lot for Emory. The comprehensive campaign we’re hoping will be at least an accelerant, but certainly a primary funder, of the strategic plan. The academic leaders of this campus have really thought through what it means to be Emory today and Emory tomorrow and how our vision will unfold. We’re very tightly coupling our campaign to the realization of that vision. We’re putting in additional metrics and we’re being more rigorous in how we evaluate success.

Could you share some of the accomplishments so far in the prelude phase of the campaign?
Cruse: We are at exactly where we thought we’d be at this stage in the campaign. We’re in the quiet phase and we have raised just slightly over 40 percent of our initial working campaign goal. Even with changes in divisional leadership, the people here have not skipped a beat and everyone has moved forward in a remarkable fashion. We’re feeling very good about where we are and where we’re going and that we will have significant progress.

What is the fundraising goal?
Cruse: We have not yet determined the campaign goal. We’re in the process of aligning academic and strategic initiative priorities and assessing the philanthropic feasibility of all these objectives. This is a complicated practice that has taken over two years in some of the campaigns in which I’ve participated. The strategic plan has helped us accelerate this process considerably. Some analysis and negotiation will transpire as we determine the appropriate goal for each unit and theme in the campaign, and the resulting comprehensive goal.

What is the timeline to launch?
Cruse: I would like us to be able to announce the public phase in fall of next year. The timing is now more focused on putting the right things in place to really ramp up and be ready for a spectacular kick-off.

What are the leadership’s goals for DAR beyond this campaign?
Cruse: A campaign is a great organizational tool to put everybody on the same page. We’re fortunate that we had the strategic plan to do that as well. On a DAR leadership retreat recently, we talked not just about the campaign, but what the DAR culture will be and what the DAR culture of philanthropy will be. How are we contributing to the campus as a whole? Yes, our focus is the campaign but we also have a lot of goals for what we have to achieve for Emory irrespective of the campaign. Have we been able to raise the image and presence of Emory in the community? Have we enhanced volunteer engagement and strengthened our alumni connection? Have we been able to raise the level of giving and acculturate faculty, staff or alumni to the importance and value to themselves of participating in philanthropy here at Emory? We are creating an environment that will set the bar for the next campaign.

How does this differ from past campaigns?

Cruse: In most campaigns you will see goals focused on a comprehensive number. There is a goal for endowment, expendable and capital needs. Those are pretty broad buckets, and they don’t always advance the institution’s mission in a meaningful way. When the focus is on the dollar goal, there can be a tendency to accept gifts that may advance the campaign goal but don’t support the real objectives of the institution. We are tying the campaign goals to the strategic plan goals. We are also looking at big ideas, both within units and through cross-cutting themes that transcend traditional boundaries. For example, “Exploring New Frontiers in Science and Technology” is just as likely to include medicine as it is biology as it is the philosophy department. The rigor of campaign goals to further the strategic plan and the unique opportunities for philanthropic impact will really set us apart at the end of this campaign.