Q&A with Vice President for Institutional Advancement Hal Abrams
March 07, 2013
As Lewis & Clark moves ahead to implement the new strategic plan, the Source sat down with Vice President for Institutional Advancement Hal Abrams to learn more about our fundraising efforts.
What are some of the goals for the Office of Institutional Advancement?
Our present goal is to expand the already enthusiastic involvement and support of our alumni and wider community. As we succeed in doing so, we will see a natural increase in gifts to the college.
There are lots of ways to get involved, including volunteer leadership positions, opportunities for interacting with faculty, and opportunities for mentoring and advising students.
So, in the short term, we are saying, “Meet with us, talk with us, join with us!” In the long term, we will have large groups of individuals who are engaged with students and faculty and who are becoming better informed. These ambassadors will allow us to accelerate and widen our outreach and to increase support of all kinds for Lewis & Clark.
So the future is bright. As an example of what is possible, we are already seeing alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and friends demonstrate their support for Lewis & Clark in increasing numbers. One example of that success is that giving to the CAS Annual Fund is 27 percent above where it was at this point last year.
How do these increased fundraising efforts relate to Lewis & Clark’s recently launched strategic plan?
The Journey Forward urges the Lewis & Clark community to join together and build on our existing strengths to move ahead. We are initiating an outreach effort that invites the community to share their Lewis & Clark experience and their ideas about investing in our future. We anticipate having more than 1,000 conversations with individuals. These broad conversations are already giving us vital feedback on how to pursue some of the key initiatives in the strategic plan.
What are some points you focus on when talking to donors?
We try to understand how Lewis & Clark has impacted their lives and learn about their current passions and interests. Based on this background, we suggest ways they can get involved with Lewis & Clark, and we help them begin to see how they can make a difference through giving.
We proudly share the many programs that represent our constant efforts to improve upon the great education that we provide at Lewis & Clark.
One of the newer initiatives that resonates well with many alumni is increasing education in entrepreneurship. People get particularly enthusiastic when they realize that this effort enriches and supports the learning and skills development of all 28 majors in the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as the law school and graduate school.
Also on the forefront is a continued focus on scholarship support for students in each of our three schools. That is vital, as are our continuing discussions with donors about proposed building projects on our three campuses.
What motivates people to give to Lewis & Clark?
In short, the motivation usually stems from a deep appreciation for past experiences with Lewis & Clark and for the mission of the college.
The thought of paying our bills does not resonate with our donors, but enhancing our programs does. Recently, an entrepreneurial alum challenged Dean of the College Tuajuanda Jordan to create a venture competition for Lewis & Clark students and recent alumni. Dean Jordan met the challenge, a significant gift was made, and the competition was born. The institution-wide competition is now a vital part of the burgeoning entrepreneurship center.
Another example came about after listening to the concerns of a parent about counseling support for our current students. We collaborated with Dean of Students Anna Gonzalez to help the parent make a $200,000 gift to enhance our on-campus counseling services. We increased the hours of two part-time counselors, and students are already benefiting from this important gift.
Can you walk us through the recent staffing changes in your department?
Last month, Andrew McPheeters was promoted to associate vice president for institutional advancement, and Stephen LeBoutillier ’00 became the interim director of alumni and parent programs. Ronna Newsom is supporting Andrew and me in her new role as office manager in McAfee. We are also looking to hire a new director of major gifts—a position recently vacated—to complement our strong and experienced team.
I am particularly pleased with Andrew’s great experience in working with alumni and parent volunteers. His expertise is vital to our efforts to expand our engagement opportunities for our donors.
Why do you like working in higher education?
I thrive on the energy of being in a learning environment and working alongside individuals who are committed to improving people’s lives.
What kind of hobbies or special activities do you enjoy outside of work?
Besides being an avid sports fan and mediocre athlete, I enjoy spending time outdoors and playing board games with my three kids—I usually don’t win—and exploring Portland with my wife, Jennifer. Fittingly, the game of Life seems to be regularly strewn across our dining room table.
What were your childhood aspirations?
My childhood dream was to be an astronaut (sign of the times) and a professional basketball player.