LeBlanc launches search for chief fundraiser

Media Credit: Sam Hardgrove | Assistant Photo Editor

University President Thomas LeBlanc said at a Faculty Senate meeting Friday that he recently launched the search for the official to spearhead the University’s fundraising and alumni outreach effort.

University President Thomas LeBlanc has begun the first vice presidential search of his tenure, looking to hire a new vice president for development and alumni relations.

LeBlanc said at a Faculty Senate meeting Friday that he recently launched the search for the official to spearhead the University’s fundraising and alumni outreach effort. Experts said the search will give LeBlanc the opportunity to start assembling his team at GW in an area that he has already made a major focal point of his young tenure.

Matt Manfra, who has served as the interim vice president of development and alumni relations since January, will return to his previous position as associate vice president for alumni relations, LeBlanc said at the meeting.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar said LeBlanc will be searching for a candidate who can increase the University’s fundraising capacity, specifically with regard to return on investment. LeBlanc has made ramping up fundraising one of the five core goals of his tenure.

“President LeBlanc is having internal and external conversations about the qualities desired and expectations for a new vice president,” Csellar said in an email.

The job listing was posted on the University’s website Wednesday.

Over the last few years, the three different officials have led the development office during the University’s historic fundraising campaign, which met its $1 billion goal last May. Most recently, Aristide Collins, the former vice president of development, left the position in January to lead LeBlanc’s presidential transition and then became his chief of staff in August.

At the time Collins left the office, officials said the search for the new top fundraiser would begin once LeBlanc began his tenure.

Megan Lewis, a senior associate at Kittleman, a nonprofit executive search firm, said the search is an opportunity for LeBlanc to start steering the University in the direction he chooses.

“I think any time you have a new leader in a new organization, it’s always a good thing for them to build their own team,” she said.

Lewis said the development office should already have a tentative direction for its future to appeal to top candidates for the job. A candidate would want to know the specific long-term goals of the office and what fundraising priorities – like annual gifts or legacy gifts – the University wants to focus on, she said.

“And hopefully there’s a good answer for that because a qualified candidate is really going to want to know what’s the focus, what are the goals, what do you want to do,” Lewis said.

In August, LeBlanc said he had hired an outside expert to examine the next steps for the University after the record-breaking campaign.

This summer, the Board of Trustees launched a task force to examine alumni engagement with an eye toward future fundraising pushes.

Rob Miller, the president and chief executive officer of the search firm Lipman Hearne, said officials should evaluate the success of the $1 billion campaign before launching a search to give the new vice president a sense of the challenges in the new position.

“In any new position, you come in and you’re trying to know the lay of the land,” he said.

He added that top development officials not only need to have organized and logical minds for keeping track of large staffs, but they should also have empathy in courting potential donors.

“You’re dealing people and you’re talking with people about what they believe and about their future and the future of their family,” he said. “You have to have a logical but empathetic mind and that’s difficult.”

Jennifer Mueller, a senior consultant at the Academic Career and Executive Search firm, said because LeBlanc is involved in the process and invested in the outcome of the search, the process could be completed quickly.

“That can be a benefit because you have support from top administration, you have a better chance of having the search process go more quickly,” she said.

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