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5 Minutes with Pat Campolieta on the Keys to Raising Major Gifts

Perhaps the quintessential characteristic of a fundraising professional is the conviction that he or she has the great fortune to be able to offer donors a surfeit of wonderful opportunities for investment in an outstanding mission. This attribute certainly applies to Pat Campolieta, one of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s talented principal gift officers.

“One of the many benefits of working in higher education is the number of investment opportunities that we are able to present to our alumni, parents, and friends of the school,” he enthused in a recent conversation.

Given the stiff competition for major gifts however, we asked Pat to describe some strategies to overcoming the challenges he and his fellow advancement officers face in today’s tough fundraising environment.

“Diversity among donors is increasing because our undergraduate population is more diverse.  Our alumni base reflects that.  And we are finding that targeted fundraising efforts around affinity groups like LGBTQ alumni or members of the Black Student Union are gaining traction.”

“As the demand for philanthropic dollars continues to increase and we see a growing trend in the designation of those gifts, we need to actively identify our donors’ affinities and interests and show ways in which they can support those initiatives and how that support will positively impact the school. The key here is doing your research--getting to know your prospects and what areas of the school they may be inclined to support.

Whether it is investing in the Annual Fund, scholarships, research, a particular school, program or athletic team, there are a number of ways in which we can help match our supporters’ interests with the needs of our schools,” Campolieta explains.

“For those of us that work in this field, we’re aware of how important it is to build relationships. I have found it paramount in my work in major gifts and now in principal gifts, to invest significant time and energy in building relationships with three key groups,” he states.

  • Prospects – do your research, get to know your prospects and when you reach out, personalize your approach based on their interests and giving history.
  • Students – interact, meet and develop relationships with students – they are at the core of what we do. These relationships will not only benefit you personally, but serve as a reminder of how important our work is and who the true beneficiaries are.
  • Colleagues (faculty, staff, administrators) – internal relationships are also very important and connecting with colleagues from across campus will also benefit you personally and assist in your interactions with your prospects.

Off to a meeting, Campolieta ends the conversation with a bit of advice for the up and coming gifts officer:

“I would stress the importance of setting up regular meetings with people from across campus during those first few months on the job,” he offers. “Get to know your colleagues within the department, also administrators, faculty, staff, students, and coaches from across campus who will help build out your institutional knowledge. Through these meetings and eventual relationships, you’ll gain an understanding of the particular needs on campus that will greatly benefit you in your work with donors and prospects.”

Pat Campolieta is a Principal Gift Officer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In this role, he is responsible for cultivating, soliciting and stewarding a portfolio of prospects capable of making gifts of $2.5M or greater. Pat is assigned as the Institute Advancement liaison between the School of Science and Department of Athletics working closely with the Dean and Director of Athletics to develop and implement strategies in support of their fundraising goals. As a senior fundraiser for the school, Pat works closely with alumni, parents and friends of the Institute in New York City, the Mid-Atlantic region and Florida.

Prior to Rensselaer, Pat served as the Assistant Athletic Director for Advancement at Colgate University. Pat earned a BA from Colgate in political science, an MS from Brooklyn College in sports management and an MS from University at Albany in higher education administration.

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