Our volunteer Research Advisory Board members represent the UK higher education fundraising industry and are guiding the study’s research questions, communications and recommendations. They are charged with challenging assumptions, keeping an open mind to results and bringing the perspective of practitioners to the project.
Andreas is the current Legacy Officer at King’s College London and has over five years’ experience in frontline higher education fundraising. He earned his stripes as a fundraiser while working as a student caller at Warwick University. Being a student is a time of great discovery about yourself and your motivations, and he quickly fell in love with making a difference.
While it was as a student caller that Andreas learnt how important donations are, it’s as a legacy officer that he came to value donor relationships, stewardship and experience. He looks forward to working with the Higher Education Donor Experience Research Project as they push to learn not only how to can serve great causes, but also how we to serve our donors.
“People are more conscious, caring, and dedicated about social issues than ever before. If we want to find our place in this world, we need to be conscious, caring and dedicated to the people.
This project will lead the industry in becoming donor focused. It is research like this which reminds us that we are not opportunists, knocking on doors to try to make our own visions come true. Rather, we are facilitators, helping to make our donor’s visions come true.”
– Andreas Avraam
Sophie was a fundraiser, once. Now she’s a student again at the age of 30-something, making her the only one in her classes who remembers the original iPod. Before she gave it all up to sit in lecture halls and write essays instead of appeals, she worked for almost ten years in regular giving at St Andrews, Aberdeen and Dundee universities. She misses working with teams of student callers; somehow group essays and presentations aren’t quite as much fun.
Sophie is starting a PhD in October 2018, and will be researching consumer vulnerability in the context of LGBT identity at Strathclyde Business School in Glasgow. She is a graduate of Abertay University, and will (fingers crossed) graduate in November with an MSc from the University of Strathclyde.
“This project is important because I think theory is all well and good, but practice is what we do day-to-day. If we can’t back up our grand theories with actions, then we’re not transforming anything at all!”
– Sophie Duncan-Shepherd
Kurstin Finch Gnehm
Kurstin Finch Gnehm is the Head of Individual Giving and Patrons’ Programmes at the Royal Academy of Music. Previously, she served as Regular Giving Manager for Imperial College London, where her team recently won a CASE Award and the 2016 London Marathon award for most money raised per charity runner. She has also worked in Regular Giving at the University of Aberdeen and the University of St Andrews. Kurstin started her fundraising career at Linfield College in the United States and holds degrees from Linfield, Oregon State University and the University of Iowa, where she has also taught communication and gender studies classes. She serves on the Learning & Development Committee at the Institute of Fundraising and is co-chairing the 2018 CASE Regular Giving Conference.
“I was impressed with the scope and spirit of the work done by the Commission on the Donor Experience, and am keen to find ways that it can be applied and evaluated. But in a time of reduced budgets and increasing scruitny, I am also aware that any new programmes need to be evidenced and balanced against goals. Fundraisers and supporter care teams need strategies for sifting through recommendations and best practices to find the ones that are right for their donors. This Advisory Board, I believe, is the right step in that direction. ”
– Kurstin Finch Gnehm
Shekinah has always had a heart for people, understanding what makes them tick and delivering products and services they want to engage with. She also has a love for business, identifying opportunities and developing creative solutions to meet objectives. After leaving school she focused on marketing, business and psychology. She fondly remembers a lecturer saying, ‘the one thing businesses often forget is that they are targeting people, real people with emotions, dislikes and interests.’ That lecture stayed with her and has shaped how she approaches problems in the community and in business. When developing solutions she always considers both sides; what does the organisation want from the target audience and, just as importantly, what does the target audience want from the organisation. One-sided relationships don’t often last, that’s why Shekinah believes understanding both perspectives is important before taking action.
“I firmly believe that understanding audiences and managing interactions at each stage of their journey with a business is important for sustaining long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships. My hope is that this study will inform decisions and strategy that lead to strong relationships between Higher Education establishments and their alumni and donor communities.”
– Shekinah Griffith
Alex’s digital expertise and practical approach to problem solving have been proven over the last ten years at the Universities of Manchester and Edinburgh where, as Deputy Director of Development Services and Director of Services respectively, he delivered programmes of change to modernise and streamline fundraising and supporter engagement.
Alex’s approach is to build and develop effective teams, with the right skills and support to deliver digital solutions to improve business and make data-driven decisions to drive fundraising and engagement.
Alex is a trustee of Roald Dahl’s Marvellous Children’s Charity, developing his experience of charity governance and helping them to rethink their fundraising strategy. He was co-chair of the inaugural CASE Development Services in 2013 and continued as Chair until 2015 and regularly presents for CASE in Europe and Africa.
“The HE sector has been successful in building successful programmes of engagement and generating philanthropic income, with the majority of donor income from major donors and organisations. Consequently, participation rates for alumni and engagement from our wider communities remain relatively low. It seems that many institutions are treading safe, well-worn paths.
I believe there is scope for institutions to be bolder with their fundraising and to be more innovative in the way they engage their supporters. Key to this are understanding supporter journeys and motivations and this research study, I hope, can start to build that picture and provide the evidence that can support this transition.”
– Alex Hyde-Parker
Inspired by her experience as a widening access student and a desire to ensure support continued to be available, Eve began her career as a CASE Graduate Trainee at the University of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Napier University. The Traineeship provided a holistic experience of Development but Eve quickly discovered a love for the mix of science and creativity involved in Annual Fund fundraising.
After a year as Alumni Relations Officer at the Edinburgh Academy, Eve joined Heriot-Watt University to manage their Regular Giving programme. In this role she has been given the opportunity to develop and introduce new concepts across a range of platforms.
“I have been working to create a tailored experience for current and future donors through a ‘donor journey’ format at Heriot-Watt and so I’m delighted to be joining the Research Advisory Board to expand on this work. I believe that the results will have a significant impact on the sector and ensure that philanthropy is a transformative experience for donors and recipients alike.”
– Eve MacDonald
Stephanie is a regular giving fundraiser whose obsession with data led her to the role of Operations and Supporter Engagement Manager at Edinburgh Napier University. She’s a regular on the CASE scene, known for her practical and engaging sessions and is generous in sharing her experience, though not before 10 a.m. and at least two coffees. Stephanie is a proud alumna of Loyola University Chicago and the University of Aberdeen.
“This study is important to me because donors deserve to feel great about the things they make possible, and fundraisers deserve to feel good about facilitating that. I hope this research provides our profession with the tools to improve our approaches to building relationships and making a difference in the world.”
– Stephanie Miller
Rachel is Head of Philanthropy at Loughborough University, leading the team responsible for all fundraising, thanking and follow-up. She has a background in major gift fundraising with individuals and has previously enjoyed roles at King’s College London, University of Nottingham and Nottingham Trent University. She is passionate about shared learning and supporting others across the sector, so volunteers with CASE Europe and sits on the Fundraising Committee at her alma mater, Regent’s Park College in Oxford. An article she wrote on Loughborough’s 2016 ‘Act Now: Transform Tomorrow’ legacy campaign was published in the Journal of Education Advancement & Marketing and the campaign itself was shortlisted for a HEIST award. Outside of fundraising she spends her time as a community volunteer in her village, jogging and walking her Labrador puppy (favourite place being the Peak District!).
“I believe that giving should be an experience that enriches the lives of those who chose to donate. I love the fact that research by the New Economics Foundation has established that giving is one of the Five Ways to Wellbeing – contributing significantly to improved mental health! It saddens me therefore that so many donors report feeling quite the opposite during or after the process of making a gift. Leaving our donors feeling taken for granted, let down, misled or depersonalised is simply not acceptable and undermines everything we should be working for as fundraisers.
I think this study will help us conquer the colossal challenge of putting donors at the heart of our fundraising. I think it will help dispel the myth that relationship fundraising is ‘nice’ but results in lower financial returns, less participation or a less strategic use of available resources. As a result of the study and its application I think the industry will benefit from renewed public faith in charities, improved recruitment and retention of talented fundraisers and ultimately a stronger supporter base for the cause, donors who will stay with you for the long haul.”
– Rachel Third
Paul studied music at the University of York and has worked in fundraising and development for over 18 years. In his current position as Associate Director and Head of Institutional Philanthropy at the University of York, he leads the university’s philanthropic engagement with companies, trusts and foundations, raising substantial funding for large scale and highly ambitious capital, research and student focussed projects. He has a successful track of major gift, corporate and foundation philanthropy and before working at York, was Head of Development for the Anne Frank Trust UK and Development Manager at Shoreditch Trust, Family Rights Group and Barnardo’s. He is a trustee and volunteer at York CVS and the Kohima Museum Trust.
“Universities and schools have multi-faceted relationships with alumni and other supporters which often led to long term and mutually enriching experiences. Any research work that builds up a clearer picture of current donor experiences and – more importantly – how these can be continually be improved will be extremely welcome.”
– Paul Tyack