Though Carrie has been at PCOM less than a year, her prior experience in advancement at two other institutions taught her invaluable lessons about the fine art of working effectively with boards. To start the ball rolling at PCOM, Carrie met personally with each individual board member to discuss her views on fundraising and operations, how they can assist with introductions, her interest in their honest feedback on planned initiatives, and of course making a personal gift to the college. Carrie learned years ago that reaching out to board members early on affords insight into the dynamics of the board, their thoughts on development processes, what is being done well and what needs work, their experience as a board member and much more. And it sets the tone for effective communication going forward.
The PCOM board is currently involved in a process of self-evaluation. Assessing strengths and weaknesses is preliminary to identifying new prospective members to fill knowledge gaps. Carrie is deeply involved in the process and expects to be instrumental in identifying and screening potential new members. She appreciates the opportunity to play a role in the selection process because it gives her “a window into how people approach board service,” as well as the opportunity to discuss preparedness to make a personal commitment to the university.
Another objective of the evaluation process is achieving greater diversity on the board and its committees. A high functioning board should include people with various backgrounds, experience, education, as well as race and gender. Currently, the majority of the PCOM board is “alumni from one [PCOM] program,” Carrie admits, which means they are seeking to create that rich mix of perspectives.
While these changes are underway, Carrie is busy with her core responsibility of keeping the board informed and engaged. She considers herself “privileged” to see board members on a regular basis: at quarterly meetings, campus events like commencement, or at board retreats. She interacts with board members on a monthly basis, which helps bridge the gap between quarterly meetings.
While she and her team are the source for reports and data, fundraising progress, the meeting schedule, other required communication, and presenting at the quarterly meetings, Carrie advises that it’s also important to be a good listener. “You are there to take in their ideas, feedback and advice, some of which you will use, some of which you won’t and that’s okay,” she observes.
Successful fundraising depends on having a very supportive development committee and an effective committee chair. Carrie has both and as a result has experienced healthy success this year. The board does not currently have a governance committee but is undertaking a thorough review of how to best utilize such a committee. Some of the duties of a governance committee will be making sure that the board is operating within its parameters, upholding the bylaws, and a periodic review and assessment of the board itself.
In conclusion, Carrie advises anyone starting out in advancement with CAO aspirations to focus on the relationship side of working with board members. She cautions: “We serve at the pleasure of the president, who serves at the pleasure of the board. It’s in your best interest to take the extra time and work hard to make those relationships good ones.”
Carrie Collins is the Chief Advancement Officer at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM), where she is responsible for fundraising, alumni engagement and helping to advance the College’s Strategic Plan “PCOM2020: A Shared Vision.” In her first fiscal year at PCOM, she recruited and retained an outstanding team, which exceeded the fundraising goal by nearly 17%.
Prior to her tenure at PCOM, Carrie was the Vice President of Institutional Advancement at University of the Sciences, where she oversaw fundraising, alumni relations, marketing and communications, and university events to advance the university’s mission. Before moving to Philadelphia, Carrie was the Executive Director, Gift Planning and Stewardship at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A “recovering lawyer,” Carrie was an attorney in private practice, with experience in estate and corporate matters, before entering the world of advancement.
Carrie is a member of the CASE Commission on Philanthropy, on the editorial board of the Journal of Education Advancement and Marketing, and a board member of Montgomery Early Learning Center (MELC).
Carrie graduated with a B.A. from the University of Pittsburgh, summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa; secured a J.D. from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law; and a M.A. in Leadership and Liberal Studies from Duquesne University.