Fred Brown was hired to be the Executive Director of Development and Campaigns for Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA, in February 2020 with a start date of April 13. His role was meant to be on campus, in an office, working with scores of staff, faculty, administrators, alumni, and volunteers to support F&M’s $200M “Now to Next” campaign. The coronavirus changed all that – read Fred’s reflections on how he adapted to his new role in a very different environment.
Can you share a brief overview of your career?
I had an unconventional start to my career in the development field. Following graduation from Lafayette College with a Civil Engineering degree, I designed dams and flood control projects for a civil engineering firm in Harrisburg, PA for eight years. A year after earning my professional engineering license I switch careers, returning to my alma mater to work in the Alumni Affairs office. Serving as the Associate Director, I managed the College’s alumni chapters program during their comprehensive campaign. Following my seven years at Lafayette, I joined Goucher College to manage their Annual Fund and annual giving programs for three years before joining Gettysburg College as a major gifts officer. In each of these jobs, I played a critical role in the success of each college’s campaign. After 11 years at Gettysburg College, I accepted the position as Assistant Dean for Advancement and External Affairs for the College of Engineering and Computer Science at Syracuse University, where I oversaw the fundraising and communication for the college.
What drew you to the Executive Director of Development and Campaigns role at F&M?
What first caught my eye was Franklin & Marshall. I was well aware of its reputation as a top liberal arts college. The duties as Executive Director of Development and Campaigns was the perfect culmination of my higher ed fundraising career. Having been involved in four campaigns in different capacities, I have a true understanding of how campaigns are managed at a school like F&M. The opportunity to finish the current campaign and work with the Senior Staff to develop the initiatives for the next campaign, shaping the future of F&M, was a job I could not pass up.
You were hired prior to the global pandemic but started after working remotely became the new norm, how has that experience been?
Interesting! It’s times like this in my life when I regret not taking notes for my memoirs. Seriously, it’s been a bit strange because I still have not worked from my office on campus nor have I met the key campus partners in person. Despite not having the normal on-boarding process, overall, it has been a great experience. When you’re involved in a crisis such as this global pandemic, it can bring out the good in people. So many of my colleagues in my division took extra steps to make me feel welcomed and always asked if they could help. I lost count at how many people said they “were so happy I was at F&M”. Everyone has been patient answering my questions and sharing their thoughts. As I have gotten more involved with my duties of managing the campaign, my colleagues have been great to collaborate with. I believe everyone realizes we have a very important campaign goal to achieve and we don’t have time to feel sorry for ourselves.
What has been most surprising about being the “new person” in a remote work environment?
Learning the acronyms of a new institution! Higher education is notorious for the use of acronyms for programs, buildings and even departments. Every college and university has them and it is part of the culture you have to learn as the new person. I’m stunned by how many acronyms F&M has! Normally, you can get a handle on the acronyms or abbreviated names as you meet colleagues from different departments and familiarize yourself with campus. In this remote work environment, everything is planned and scheduled with little to no chance of the “casual” meeting or “let’s have lunch”. You have to make the extra effort and hope your schedules match. I often find myself in meetings interrupting asking “what does OSPGD mean? or what is TAC?”.
Tell us about something that has gone better than you expected within your first few months in this role.
Being accepted and trusted by my advancement colleagues. I have the reputation of being a thoughtful and creative fundraiser who truly understands the nuts and bolts of campaigns as well as the nuances that develop over the course of a campaign. I surprised myself at how quickly I picked up on the culture of F&M and gained a handle on the fundraising efforts to this point of the campaign. I’ve been able to make changes to how we share information, communicate the campaign and its successes and develop the strategy on how we plan to successfully complete this campaign in these challenging times within the original timeframe. Also, learning from one of my colleagues that they feel the mood and atmosphere has changed for the better since I arrived was nice feedback to hear.
What advice would you give to someone starting a new job remotely?
Focus on getting to meet ALL the people in your department/division and learn what their roles are. During your conversation, listen! Remember you are trying to establish a relationship so ask questions and be willing to share your story as well. You don’t have the benefit of being in person where you can observe the body language or tone. Understand what their title and role is within your department so you can understand their point of view. The other piece of advice is be prepared for tons of Zoom meetings and emails. The “doorway conversation” is gone so everything has to be scheduled. Projects may not move as quickly as you like. Be patient. Everyone is in the same boat, so you have to learn to paddle together to achieve your goals. Be considerate of other people’s time and the work they are doing. In other words, be a thoughtful colleague.
Why did you choose this profession?
Shortly after completing college, I learned that I really care about education and the way it can help those less fortunate change their future and their family tree. I participated in a few discussions for middle and high school students about engineering where I shared my story. I didn’t have a degree that could transfer to teaching but my position at Lafayette College showed me how thoughtful fundraising can open doors and impact a young person’s life. For quality of life, I found higher education to be the “sweet spot” for me but I do volunteer my fundraising skills helping K-12 schools.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Take the time to learn what you enjoy rather than what you are good at. In high school, I was good at math and science which led me to my engineering career. What I enjoyed was meeting people and learning about how they got to this moment in their life. In other words, listening to their story. I’ve learned over the years that we have so much in common with each other yet we focus on our differences. People feel good because you listened and didn’t judge them.
Interview by Megan Abbett, Lindauer Senior Consultant.