Alma College seeks a Vice President for Advancement who has the leadership skills and strategic vision to build upon the transformation of the philanthropic culture achieved during the successful “Our Time is Now” comprehensive campaign. In addition to overseeing the Advancement team, the Vice President will serve as a member of the President’s senior leadership cabinet and be a supportive partner for the Board of Trustees.
“Our Time is Now” is the most significant campaign in Alma’s history. The ambitious goal of $120 million has been surpassed well in advance of the June 30, 2021 conclusion. It has shattered all previous standards for philanthropy. (The largest previous campaign total was $37 million.) Generous donors have responded with confidence in the clear vision for Alma’s future pursued by an experienced President, an engaged Board of Trustees, a collaborative cabinet, a dedicated staff, and a growing number of volunteers. That the campaign momentum has not diminished in the midst of the challenges of the pandemic is evidence that Alma’s donors have a shared commitment to its mission and to ensuring its future.
“Our Time is Now” had an emphasis on facilities with the $14.7 million Learning Commons project as the largest single priority. Despite the focus on facilities, gifts to the endowment increased as did the number of estate commitments. In the five years prior to the campaign Alma averaged $4.6 million in total annual philanthropic support. During the campaign that average has been raised to $8.1 million led by over 250 donors with commitments of $50,000 or more. The campaign proved effective in encouraging donors to make and declare estate commitments for Alma. The campaign was managed effectively and efficiently by a staff of 12.
The momentum evident as the campaign nears its conclusion provides confidence that Alma’s alumni and friends are committed to a culture of philanthropy that can match their high expectations for Alma’s quality. The new Vice President will be expected to build on this tradition and develop strategies for the Advancement team that can engage alumni and friends in securing the resources needed to support the creative and transforming partnership of students and faculty.
Priorities for the Vice President will include increasing the importance of endowment as a philanthropic priority, planning and directing a new ambitious campaign that will emphasize the endowment in addition to seeking support for the renovation of the Dow—Kapp Science Complex and other emerging priorities, increasing alumni engagement with the College, strengthening the Annual Fund as a tool to engage the next generation of philanthropic leaders, and continuing to build the tradition of estate commitments for Alma.
The Vice President will be expected to have the strategic skills to shape the philanthropic culture, the management skills to guide and motivate the dedicated Advancement team, the partnership skills to work productively with the President, cabinet, and Board, the communication skills to be a forceful advocate, and the relationship skills to be an effective partner with donors in support of Alma.
Reporting and partner relationships
- The Vice President will report to President Abernathy, serve as a member of the President’s senior leadership cabinet, provide Advancement support for the Finance and Infrastructure committee of the Board of Trustees, and serve as the primary support for a campaign leadership committee. President Jeff Abernathy is in his 11th year leading Alma.
Scope of Responsibilities
- Develop and implement Advancement strategies to meet ambitious goals for philanthropy and constituent engagement. Target areas for potential growth, identify benchmarks, and engage staff and partners in creating paths to success. Work with the President and campus partners to develop a compelling philanthropic message. Plan and direct the next comprehensive campaign.
- Lead the Advancement team that includes development, alumni and family engagement, annual and planned giving, and Advancement services. Develop the strengths and skills of the Advancement team to ensure the effective and professional pursuit of individual and team goals. Manage available budget resources to provide the training, tools, and infrastructure they will need to succeed. Establish motivating accountability measures that help each team member understand the individual and collective impact they can have.
- Identify effective ways to engage more volunteers in support of the college.
- Guide the process to establish clear priorities for philanthropic support—especially for the comprehensive campaign.
- Develop and maintain productive relationships with a portfolio of leadership donors.
- Establish an effective partnership with the president to shape a strong philanthropic message, support his work with leadership volunteers and donors, and guide his engagement with constituents.
- Ensure that Trustees are committed to the Advancement strategies and goals. Find appropriate ways for them to be visible models of stewardship. Ensure that they have a clear sense of ownership for the goals and success of the campaign. Provide support for the Finance and Infrastructure committee.
- Develop a long-term strategy that can build in alumni a stronger sense of ownership for Alma’s future. Clarify the strategic objectives for the Alma Ambassador Program (a growing volunteer program). Identify strategies to connect with young alumni. Seek to increase alumni donor participation.
- Serve as the advocate for Advancement within the community while recognizing the need to understand and support the highest needs of the college.
- Develop a communication plan to ensure that alumni and friends are adequately informed about the mission and direction of the college.
- Serve as a visible advocate for the college in the city of Alma and the surrounding community.
Qualifications and Experience
“Our Time is Now” will have a lasting impact on future generations of students and faculty at Alma College. It also had a transforming impact on the college’s philanthropic tradition. The next Vice President for Advancement will have the challenge to strengthen and broaden that tradition by serving as its visible advocate. In order to identify the individual who can do that effectively, this search process will seek candidates who have a combination of the following qualities, experience and character:
- The wisdom to understand the challenges and opportunities for Alma’s mission in the competitive world of higher education; the strategic thinking necessary to develop philanthropic initiatives to respond to those challenges and opportunities; the professional experience needed to manage those initiatives; and the relationship skills to engage staff, volunteers and donors in response to those challenges and opportunities.
- The experience and confidence to be an effective, collaborative partner with the President, Trustees, cabinet, faculty, and staff on institutional issues beyond those of the Advancement team.
- The experience of leading a development team in the creative development of strategic initiatives, managing them effectively, and successfully achieving ambitious goals with them.
- The experience needed to plan, direct and complete a successful comprehensive campaign.
- A record of engaging, soliciting and successfully securing significant philanthropic commitments for a range of institutional priorities from a broad range of donors. (This assumes the awareness and acceptance of the skills and demands needed to build those relationships e.g., travel, communication, stewardship, etc.).
- A record of productive work with corporate and foundation funders.
- The vision to see a lifetime continuum of engagement for alumni.
- The experience of leading or being part of a team that encourages creativity, seeks diverse perspectives, and welcomes diversity in staff and alumni.
- A record of demonstrating qualities of leadership including inspiration, honesty, respect, tenacity, and perseverance.
- The experience of managing available resources efficiently and effectively.
- A record demonstrating excellent communication skills, both written and oral.
- A record of comfort working with a broad range of social media tools and IT systems in support of Advancement initiatives.
- A comprehension of and an appreciation for Alma’s important place in the Central Michigan community.
- A bachelor’s degree is required; an advanced degree is preferred. An understanding of and appreciation for a liberal arts college and knowledge of the unique challenges and opportunities they face.
Alma College enrolls approximately 1,450 students and is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Alma College offers four degrees (Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Music and Bachelor of Science in Nursing) in 41 majors. Academic programs that typically produce the most graduates are business administration, biology, psychology, integrative physiology and health science, education, English, and history. Students are encouraged to participate in service learning and study abroad opportunities designed to enhance classroom learning. Alma’s current student body is the most diverse in its history and represents the college’s commitment to being a welcoming and inclusive community. The challenges of the past year presented by the pandemic have provided an important demonstration of the college’s creativity, adaptability, and willingness to work together in support of its mission. Alma has developed the Evergreen Strategic Plan that serves as a dynamic tool to guide planning, decisions, and initiatives. In recent years, the college has enjoyed financial and enrollment stability, as well as increased presence in underserved communities and new markets and significant development in the city of Alma’s downtown area. Additional information about Alma College can be found at alma.edu.
The center of it all — Alma, Michigan
Alma, a community of about 10,000 non-students, is located one hour north of the state capital of Lansing, in Gratiot County. The city dubs itself “Scotland, USA,” and holds an annual Highland Festival and Games that draws participants from all over the world. A nearby casino and resort brings in big-name entertainers, and local symphonies, theatre troupes and artist guilds provide cultural offerings reminiscent of larger cities. Alma is located near the geographic center of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. Notably, the city is roughly two hours from Lakes Michigan and Huron, as well as the city of Detroit, Mackinac Island, and the states of Indiana and Ohio. For more information on the surrounding area, visit:
Applications and nominations are invited. Qualified candidates should submit a letter of application that addresses the skills required for the position, a curriculum vitae or resume, an Alma College Employment Application and the names, addresses, phone numbers, and nature of relationship of three professional references via email to: Olivia Gibson, Administrative Assistant to President Abernathy, Alma College, firstname.lastname@example.org. For an Alma College application please go to: https://www.alma.edu/live/files/897- employment-application.
Candidates are encouraged to submit application materials by April 30, 2021, but this search will remain open until an appointment is made.
Alma College is a selective, baccalaureate Liberal Arts College committed to academic excellence and development of responsible leaders. Alma’s undergraduates thrive on challenging academic programs in a supportive, small-college environment emphasizing active, collaborative learning and close student-faculty interaction. Alma is a private Phi Beta Kappa institution located in the center of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
Alma College is an Equal Opportunity Employer, and is committed to recruiting and retaining a diverse faculty, staff, and student body.
Alma College recognizes that we are all transformed when we celebrate and value the varied identities backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives in our campus community. We are committed to recognizing and removing barriers to success and providing equitable access to opportunities through education and advocacy. In our increasingly diverse campus and world, we pledge to create a climate where everyone is safe and free to grow intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally.