On this Amplify episode, Elin chats with Matt Clark, Assistant Dean for Advancement at Syracuse University of Information Studies.
With over 30 years of experience, Matt’s higher education Advancement and External Affairs experience has been focused on program development and delivery, advocacy efforts among corporate, foundation and government constituents, individual philanthropy, and grant development. He also worked with several Fortune 500 companies as a technical writer and earned a law degree from SU’s College of Law with a concentration on Intellectual Property Law and Technology Management.
We have to go to them and say, “What can we do for you?” before we ever put our hand out for a gift.
Hello, and welcome to Amplify, the video series where we interview thought leaders about best practices, trends, and their experiences in creating engaging campaigns. Today I’m speaking with Matt Clark, Assistant Dean of Advancement at Syracuse University. Matt, we have had the privilege of working with you on past campaigns. And we’re very excited to speak with you today. Welcome to Amplify.
Thank you for having me. It’s good to see you again.
Can you just explain a little bit about what you do? Like what is that role? And what are you responsible for?
Sure. So unlike corporate America, which is driven by profits, higher education is nonprofit. And there are three legs to the revenue stool. One is the success of the endowment. The other is tuition. And the third is fundraising. Fundraising entails relationship-building. The thing that people genuinely want to give to the most is still scholarships for students, providing access. That brings up a really important part of my role, which is, if we do have someone who supports a student, there’s a learning opportunity for the student as well in understanding the value of building a relationship with that donor if he or she wants to, taking advantage of mentoring opportunities, saying “Thank you.” I will say there is one example in particular that I like to highlight. There was a multimillionaire, who gave to an institution where I used to work. And he would give to a number of places. Some places didn’t thank him. They didn’t let him know the impact he was having. But my institution did. And he ended up giving us $8 million dollars. So it means something to the people with whom we have a relationship to let them know that they’re special.
What you just shared about the thank you being so important. It just reminds me that it’s a conversation, it’s a relationship. It’s not just you putting out messaging all the time. There’s more to it than that.
Yeah. And I have to be very sensitive to the messaging that I do send. So for example, California is being flooded with water and avalanches and mudslides right now. How insensitive, how ignorant would it be for me to send a solicitation message to the West Coast? So there needs to be empathy in all of the relationships. And we have to recognize, too, that we can’t just go to our constituents with our hand out all the time. If we’re never doing anything for them, then that is a one sided, lopsided relationship. So we have to go to them and say, “What can we do for you?” before we ever put our hand out for a gift.
It’s really interesting to hear about the need for that balance, as you’re, you know, planning your messaging and your marketing, and all of that. And then you mentioned the thing about the flooding and the weather that they’re having on the West Coast right now. So how do you deal with that when you’re planning your marketing, and you’re planning your messaging? How do you, do allow some room for moving things around? Or is that a challenge for you?
It is a challenge for me because I work in a large institution, where central marketing is trying to balance the calendars of 13 different schools, colleges and units. And so they don’t want to send out a flurry of information that floods people’s email inboxes to the point where they unsubscribe from all university communications. And so, you know, we’re always trying to say, you know, give them some time, because a lot of the people would receive, a lot of the constituents would receive information from a variety of sources, if they were an athlete, and a biology major, and participated in programming at Hendricks Chapel, and also were part of a sorority. So we have to make sure that we’re empathizing with the constituent experience. So we do try to juggle the way that we communicate. And so we allocate the first Monday of every month is my day to communicate with our donors and constituents. But there are some times when I can just send out a message without asking permission. And one example is a care message for folks who are affected by climate change. If there’s a tornado in Alabama or hurricane in Florida, I can send those messages out. But there’s wiggle room in the marketing and the messaging because aside from what I want to do, I recognize that I work within a larger organization and I have to respect what the other colleagues are doing.