GW’s fundraising chief to step down amid $1 billion campaign

Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Michael Morsberger will step down at the end of this month. Hatchet File Photo.
Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Michael Morsberger will step down at the end of this month. Hatchet File Photo.

Updated: Oct. 9, 2014 at 9:48 a.m.

This post was written by Hatchet news editors Mary Ellen McIntire and Colleen Murphy.

GW’s fundraising chief will step down from his post at the end of this month, the University announced Wednesday.

Michael Morsberger, the vice president for development and alumni relations, has served as the leading force behind the University’s massive fundraising campaign, which aims to raise $1 billion and launched publicly about three months ago. His sudden resignation, which he said was for personal reasons, means GW will lose the face of the largest fundraising drive in its history.

“I am so grateful to so many who have made my family and me part of the GW community. In Development and Alumni Relations, we have taken George Washington’s credo, ‘deeds not words,’ as our own,” Morsberger said in a release.

Morsberger helped bring in GW’s largest-ever gift last spring, an $80 million donation that renamed the Milken Institute School of Public Health. Since he came to the University in 2010, he’s expanded GW’s fundraising operation to a team that officials trusted to raise a 10-figure haul.

He brought in 26 gifts of $1 million or more last year, five more than the previous year. GW’s donor base last year increased 15 percent, the largest number of donors to give to the University ever.

Aristide Collins, vice president and secretary, will take over direction of the campaign while a national search for Morsberger’s replacement begins.

Michael Nilsen, vice president for public affairs at the Association for Fundraising Professionals, said while Morsberger’s departure “may take some getting used to,” it is not uncommon for a school to lose their chief fundraiser during a campaign.

Nilsen said the University will have to maintain Morsberger’s connections with donors, which helped him bring in $530 million in gifts during the three years leading up to the campaign’s launch.

“GW will probably miss relationships he’s built, but they have other people. The connection first and foremost is with the organization and the cause,” Nilsen said. “Why you wanted to give still remains, even if the particular person you had a close relationship with is gone.”

In a letter to University leaders, University President Steven Knapp said Morsberger helped lead a team of 230 staff and “reorganized our development operation in preparation for an unprecedented philanthropic endeavor.”

“Working closely with me and the entire administration and faculty, as well as trustees and hundreds of other volunteer leaders, Mike and his team synthesized the University’s strategic plan, marketing initiative and fundraising efforts into a unified vision,” Knapp wrote.

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