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Robert Poole

Robert Poole

Engaging your president and board are key to ensuring your institution’s fundraising success. Engaging faculty, staff and students is also important. Engagement is a clear indicator of commitment, and commitment is a number one prerequisite for fundraising success. We have admired Robert S. Poole, Senior Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Meharry Medical College for his success in leading a strong fundraising team. A seasoned and successful advancement professional, Poole recently led Meharry through an historic $125 million campaign. In 2010 the College reach the $100 million endowment milestone. These successes are a result of strong philanthropic giving and prudent financial management, and one of the many reasons we admire Mr. Poole. We turned to Robert for specific information about how he engages the College’s board and president Dr. Wayne J. Riley . Our hope is that his tips and experience can help impact fundraising at your college, university, non-profit.

Saad & Shaw: How do you engage your president as a fundraiser?

Robert Poole: Here are five things we focus on at Meharry:

  • Developing and reviewing new funding opportunities with him based on the College’s strategic plan and in conjunction with the deans and other campus executive leaders.
  • Helping to maintain clarity regarding fundraising priorities.
  • Updating him on top prospects.
  • Conducting prospect briefing sessions before cultivation/solicitation visits.
  • Keeping him abreast of fundraising trends, best practices, and tracking and reporting on progress at peer institutions.

Saad & Shaw: How do you prepare and support your board in the area of fundraising?

Robert Poole: We communicate with the board’s advancement committee and its chairman regarding fundraising and marketing priorities and objectives. We provide prospect briefings for board members that participate in cultivation and solicitation calls as appropriate. We also involve board members in planning major fundraising initiatives both as policy makers and potential donors.

Saad & Shaw: How do you integrate the president into your fund development program?

Robert Poole: As lead spokesman and vital leader/partner in every development discipline the president is highly visible and engaged throughout the advancement program.  He’s involved in media (including op-ed features, video features, editorial board meetings, radio and TV interviews, health policy position statements, etc.), external affairs and government relations, donor prospect calls and campaign strategy, and alumni relations.

Saad & Shaw: How do you involve staff, faculty and students in your fundraising initiatives?

Robert Poole: We encourage them to share their perspectives on the institutional needs and opportunities that they would like to see addressed through philanthropy.   We provide education on how the fundraising process works and, where appropriate, involve them in fundraising cultivation, solicitation and stewardship.  For example, we’ve had great success in utilizing students during donor recognition and other events, students’ personal letters of thanks to scholarship donors have helped raise a lot of money as have their testimonies in solicitation appeals.  We work with faculty and other academic leaders to develop concepts that may ultimately become fundraising proposals or projects.  Additionally, faculty and deans have been very effective participants in donor visits.

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