For the greater good
U OF M STUDENTS DISCOVER AN UNEXPECTED PATH TOWARD MAKING THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE: FUNDRAISING
Emily Stambaugh, ’18 B.S.B., was a few months from graduation and having serious doubts about her future. A supply chain and operations management and international business major at the U’s Carlson School of Management, she was on track to work for a large Fortune 500 company. But something wasn’t right—and she couldn’t put her finger on it.
“I had a lot of understanding of what I didn’t want, and very vague ideas of what I did want,” she recalls.
From the time she arrived on campus, Stambaugh had found a “home away from home” at Anselm House, a nondenominational Christian study center for students. She began interning in the organization’s fundraising office during her senior year, which started to give her some clarity. “I learned that I wanted to work for a smaller organization, and I knew I wanted to be doing work I could stand behind,” says the self-described “proud farm kid” from South Dakota.
When she saw how Anselm House’s fundraising efforts were helping students like her, it got her thinking even more. “I had been on the receiving end of Anselm House’s mission for so long,” she says. “I knew firsthand that the organization benefits students in profound ways.”
Stambaugh shared that experience with her Carlson School adviser. He encouraged her to sign up for a philanthropy and professional fundraising strategy class, a relatively new offering in the school’s public and nonprofit management track.
Despite carrying an 18-credit academic load and working two jobs, Stambaugh enrolled during her final semester.
The class proved to be a turning point. “I could tell development really aligned with some of the things I’m good at: building relationships and helping connect people to the things they care about,” she says, admitting she’d never thought she would be a good fundraiser before taking the class.
In 2016, Mike and Linda Fiterman created a two-year scholarship to help grow the next generation of fundraisers and nonprofit managers. So far, nine students have benefited.
Emily Everson, who majored in accounting and public and nonprofit management, received the scholarship the past two years. She took the fundraising class this spring and one day hopes to put her accounting skills to work for a nonprofit.
Everson says getting to know the Fitermans and learning about their dedication to philanthropy made receiving the scholarship all the more meaningful. “It was awesome to see all the hard work the Fitermans do for the U and for the community all around.” She says creating a scholarship for students interested in working for a nonprofit, whether in development or another capacity, “goes along with their belief in giving back.”
Exposing students like Stambaugh to a career they hadn’t considered—and one for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics anticipates much faster than average job growth—is why Mike Fiterman, ’70 B.S.B., approached the Carlson School about creating a fund-raising curriculum. “This is a generation that wants to improve the world,” he says. “Whether they go into this as a profession or as a volunteer, they need the basics.”
Fiterman, chair and CEO of Twin Cities-based Liberty Diversified International, knows what he’s talking about. Supporting causes they’re passionate about—including the United Way, Children’s Minnesota hospitals and clinics, and various Jewish charities—has been a way of life for him and his wife, Linda. In addition to making a gift to help create the fundraising class at the U, the Fitermans support a variety of U of M causes and established a scholarship for students interested in nonprofit management. Mike, who serves on the University of Minnesota Foundation Board of Trustees, also helped raise more than $300 million a year toward the U’s Driven campaign during his time as chair.
Those nonprofit connections brought Fiterman to the table with some of the best fundraisers in the field. And he noticed that many were starting to retire. “Couple that with the fact that government cutbacks and cutbacks at organizations like United Way have required many agencies to fundraise,” he says. “We felt there’s an enormous need to create a curriculum that gives students the opportunity to go into this field.”
Anne Cohen, a senior lecturer and faculty adviser for the Carlson School’s public and nonprofit management program, was tapped to develop the course. She taught the first group of 12 students in the spring of 2017.
The class isn’t all lectures and readings. It’s about doing work for the greater good while learning. “Nonprofits are often in a Catch 22,” Cohen says. “They don’t have money, so they don’t have a professional development staff.”
That’s where the students come in. Groups are matched with Twin Cities nonprofits that are struggling to raise money and, in some cases, stay afloat. With the help of experienced fundraisers as mentors, the students have seven weeks to study their assigned organization, draw up a fundraising plan based on best practices, then present it to their clients, their mentors, and their classmates.
On the final day of class this past May, Emily Everson, ’19 B.S.B., and her three teammates shared their recommendations for ServeMinnesota, a nonprofit that oversees the state’s AmeriCorps program.
Everson, a recipient of the Mike and Linda Fiterman Scholarship, described how ServeMinnesota’s reading and math programs, which assist 35,000 students, need additional funding. She also talked about how most
of the organization’s dollars come from the state and federal governments—sources that can dry up in an unfavorable political climate—and how ServeMinnesota has done little fundraising. “There’s a lack of philanthropic culture,” she explains.
The team’s plan centered on courting individual donors and launching a capital campaign that could increase the percentage of the organization’s operating budget that comes from gifts from 3 percent to 5 percent. They also recommended educating AmeriCorps alumni about ServeMinnesota’s role, hiring a contract fundraising coordinator, and asking engaged alumni to help the board understand how fundraising can make a difference.
Who they’ve served
Since 2017, students in the U’s philanthropy and professional fundraising strategy class have crafted fundraising plans for the following clients:
Rêve Academy—teaches technology, design, and business skills to students from North Minneapolis
Faith’s Lodge—supports parents who’ve lost a child
Perspectives—helps homeless single mothers recovering from drug addiction and mental illness
Cyber Warrior Foundation—trains veterans in cybersecurity
ServeMinnesota—oversees the AmeriCorps program in the state
The Atelier Studio Program of Fine Art—trains artists in studio arts
Gilda’s Club Twin Cities—provides support to people living with cancer
University YMCA—serves U of M students and the community
Mike Fiterman, who makes a point of attending the students’ presentations, honed in on their mention of the board. “Whether they give $1 or $1,000, your board needs to be all in,” he says. “Often, boards attract people who really care about a cause but are not good at development.”
One of ServeMinnesota’s leaders, who was listening to the presentation, nodded in agreement. “I didn’t think we needed fundraising, but we do,” she told the class. “Our leadership team isn’t used to doing solicitation.”
Besides having nonprofits come away with development plans, Cohen says it’s been a bonus to watch the impact the class has on students. “I see their brains being engaged, their hearts being engaged. They do some amazing things because they’re inspired,” she says.
Some have continued to work with the nonprofits or their mentors. Jeff Halbur, director of major gifts for Greater Twin Cities United Way, was so impressed with one of the students he mentored that he hired him as an intern. The student, who was studying business analytics, spent a summer doing a comprehensive analysis of the organization’s donor base, looking at factors such as age, wealth, and pending gifts in donors’ wills or estates. “He mapped out when we might expect to realize some of these planned gifts, some of which are quite significant.” Halbur says he still refers back to the analysis when training new development officers.
Others have found full-time development jobs at local nonprofits. Emily Stambaugh is one of them. Last summer, she began working for the Steier Group, a consulting firm in the Twin Cities that manages capital campaigns for churches, schools, and other nonprofits.
As a campaign manager, she helped a Colorado church raise money for major building renovations and is now working with a school in rural Wisconsin to upgrade its facility. “I feel really grateful to know that the work I’m doing is making an impact on people directly,” she says.
Stambaugh feels so strongly about her experience in the class that she makes time to talk to students who want to know more about fundraising as a career. “Had it not been for the class, I don’t know if I would be in development,” she says. “It affirmed the direction I was going. I love what I’m doing and I’m grateful for where I’m at right now.”
Kim Kiser is editor of Legacy magazine.