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Assistant/Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations
Development and Alumni Relations
Virginia Commonwealth University
This is an extraordinary opportunity to shape the future of Virginia Commonwealth University’s alumni relations efforts, move VCU into the vanguard of alumni organizations nationally and support the growing reputation of the university.
The university and the region
Virginia’s premier urban public research university is a vibrant place where discovery and creativity go hand in hand. The university plays an integral role in the vitality of its home city of Richmond, Virginia, which is constantly receiving recognition for the richness of its cultural scene.
About Virginia Commonwealth University
VCU dates to 1838 with the formation of the Medical Department of Hampden-Sydney College, whose mission was to educate physicians in central Virginia. The college was later renamed Medical College of Virginia. In 1968, Richmond Professional Institute merged with the Medical College of Virginia to become what is now known as Virginia Commonwealth University.
Located in downtown Richmond, the state capital of Virginia, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 225 degree and certificate programs across its campuses: the downtown Monroe Park and MCV campuses in Richmond; the Rice Rivers Center in Charles City, Virginia; separate campuses in Fairfax, Virginia, and Charlottesville, Virginia, for the School of Pharmacy; and a campus in Doha, Qatar, for the School of the Arts.
With over $275 million in sponsored research funding in fiscal year 2017, VCU is designated as a research university with very high research activity by the Carnegie Foundation. An array of university-approved centers and institutes of excellence — involving faculty from multiple disciplines in public policy, biotechnology and health care discoveries — supports the university’s research mission.
As the premier urban public research university in the commonwealth of Virginia, VCU’s mission, under the leadership of President Michael Rao, Ph.D., is to advance knowledge and student success through its commitments to:
- An engaged, learner-centered environment that fosters inquiry, discovery and innovation in a global setting.
- Research that expands the boundaries of new knowledge and creative expression and promotes translational applications to improve human health.
- Interdisciplinary collaborations that bring new perspectives to complex problems and mobilize creative energies that advance innovation and solve global challenges.
- Health care that strives to preserve and restore health for all people, to seek the cause and cure of diseases through groundbreaking research and to educate those who serve humanity.
- Diversity that provides a climate of inclusion, a dedication to addressing disparities wherever they exist and an opportunity to explore and create in an environment of trust.
- Sustainable university-community partnerships that enhance the educational, economic and cultural vitality of the communities VCU serves in Virginia and around the world.
Today, VCU plays an integral role in the economic health of the city of Richmond and the region by educating the current and future workforce, advancing research and enhancing patient care. VCU, its health system and other related entities have cash and investments of about $3 billion, which includes $840 million in endowment funds.
About Richmond, Virginia
Established as the commonwealth’s capital in 1779, Richmond, Virginia, is a vibrant mix of history, diverse culture and real-world opportunities. Its rich history is much in evidence in the architecture, the Capitol grounds and the cobblestone streets around the city. Distinct neighborhoods, cozy restaurants and cafes and quaint local markets give the city an intimate feel, but theaters, galleries, music festivals, sports attractions and a steady stream of annual events bring the region to life. With the historic James River and 550 acres of parks bordering it, bike trails, wineries, breweries, a flourishing arts, entertainment and restaurant scene and affordable suburbs, this small city with a low cost of living punches well above its weight in terms of attractions and buzz.
Richmond’s location in the middle of the state allows for day or weekend trips to the beach, the Blue Ridge Mountains or Virginia’s many wineries (Travel + Leisure magazine named Virginia one of its five wine regions in the world to visit now). Richmond’s location places VCU within a two-hour drive of Washington, D.C., and a multitude of excellent institutions of higher education. It is within a day’s drive of 50% of the nation’s population and is in the path of growth in the mid-Atlantic metropolitan corridor. The Richmond metropolitan area is also home to 10 Fortune 1000 companies, a broad base of financial companies, hospitals and media firms, high-tech manufacturing companies and state and local government agencies. TIME magazine’s No. 2 city in the United States for attracting millennial talent, Richmond is one of the fastest-growing tech hubs in the country.
Virginia Commonwealth University seeks a visionary and transformational leader to evolve the alumni relations program toward the level of best and breakthrough practices and move the university into the vanguard of alumni organizations nationally.
Assistant/Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations
Virginia Commonwealth University seeks a transformational leader to be its next Assistant or Associate Vice President for Alumni Relations. Reporting to the Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations, the AVP will be an externally focused visionary who builds and strengthens relationships with a diverse set of alumni volunteers and organizations while working in close concert with the university president, other senior leaders and faculty members. The AVP will evolve the alumni relations program from its current stage of development, with its strategic plan as the guide, toward the level of best and breakthrough practices among peer institutions. The AVP will have independent and broad authority to work with university leadership to identify key deliverables, to refine the measures of effectiveness for the program, to reconstitute the volunteer governance and leadership of the organization and, thus, to move VCU into the vanguard of alumni organizations nationally. In accomplishing these important tasks, the AVP will establish strong, trusting relationships inside and outside the university, building a program whose whole exceeds the sum of its parts.
The successful candidate must build engagement and develop lasting relationships with volunteer alumni leaders; alumni constituents worldwide; university leaders, including deans, department chairs and faculty; and students. They must work well with and earn respect from other senior leaders across those constituencies and must be able to develop and coach talent within the alumni relations team. They must collaborate with faculty members to develop applicable academic programming that meets alumni needs. They must skillfully apply strategic thinking and data-driven decision-making to all tasks. They must exercise sound judgment, be proactive and ensure efficiency and effectiveness in overseeing day-to-day operations. They must be a divergent thinker, not afraid to challenge the norm, and a diplomat who can build bridges to strategically connect the university’s MCV and Monroe Park campuses, various generations of alumni and alumni with diverse interests and backgrounds. They must be dedicated to promoting diversity, multiculturalism and inclusion with alumni, students, programming and the team. They must be able to quickly absorb information and gain insights necessary for effective leadership and be able to move an organization from vision to action. The candidate must respond appropriately and optimistically to challenges, changing circumstances and stressful situations. They must plan and manage budgets with a high degree of accountability, including both tactical and strategic projects..
Qualifications and experience
The ideal candidate for this position will have the following experience:
- Minimum of 7 years’ experience in university alumni relations or development OR minimum of 7 years’ proven, analogous experience AND a close, contemporary familiarity with Virginia Commonwealth University.
- Bachelor’s degree.
- Comprehensive knowledge of alumni or other constituent relations within a research university or a similarly complex enterprise that has a robust constituent relations program.
- Experience working with senior leadership in an organization, preferably in higher education, including athletics, student affairs, strategic enrollment management, government relations and deans.
- Demonstrated experience or a commitment to leading and working with diverse internal and external constituencies and the ability to consider cultural competency through a development and alumni relations lens.
- Proven track record of successfully developing and growing impactful programs, especially through collaboration with subject matter experts (faculty members, for example).
- Collaborative leadership style that is well-suited to management in a complex university setting.
- The belief that diversity enriches all of us by exposing us to a range of ways to understand and engage with the world, identify challenges, and to discover, design and deliver solutions.
- Superior communication skills and the ability to build strong, lasting, trusting relationships both internally and externally.
- Proven history of using cutting-edge technology to connect with and engage a range of people, especially recent graduates.
- Proven track record of working successfully and symbiotically with colleagues across an institution, especially the ability to work productively with senior executives, such as the president of a university.
- A visionary with a strongly collaborative bent, outstanding leadership skills, integrity, honesty, judgment, optimism, openness, listening skills, financial literacy and a sense of humor.
- Experience using appropriate technologies, such as a constituent database (e.g., Blackbaud CRM) and Microsoft Office.
- Exceptional verbal and written communication skills and interpersonal skills, with an ability to coach effectively to further develop the talent of the alumni relations team.
- Highly motivated and efficient operator with the ability to manage a significant volume of diverse tasks, activities and projects.
- Valid driver’s license.
- Ability to travel and work nights and weekends.
- 10+ years’ experience with progressive responsibility in alumni relations, volunteer management and/or marketing.
- Degree from VCU.
- Master’s degree in an appropriate area of specialization.
- Experience working in higher education.
- Current, actionable understanding of VCU and its constituents.
Opportunities and challenges
- The AVP will focus on executing and strengthening the Office of Alumni Relations’ existing strategic plan, ELEVATE (see Page 11). The AVP will focus on alumni engagement and programming, in partnership with the Assistant Vice President of Advancement Services and the Assistant Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Engagement.
- In December 2017, the alumni organization transitioned from a membership model to an inclusive model, welcoming all graduates regardless of dues or gifts. This means that before early 2018, only about 11,000 of 190,000 living alumni benefited from regular touchpoints and programming. In many ways, the alumni population is unchartered, so a major goal for the AVP is to facilitate robust, widespread and measurable alumni engagement.
- VCU is committed to an affinity-based alumni model, and the AVP will build on existing structures.
Development and Alumni Relations
DAR maximizes philanthropic support by engaging stakeholders with VCU, working in partnership with all schools, programs and campuses. The Office of Alumni Relations engages the university’s nearly 200,000 alumni to connect them to the university and to one another.
About the VCU Office of Development and Alumni Relations
Development and Alumni Relations is leading the largest fundraising campaign in VCU’s history. The Make It Real Campaign for VCU funds the critical initiatives that will become points of distinction for VCU long into the future. Our $750 million goal is as ambitious as our vision. The campaign impacts our students and the alumni they become, funds breakthroughs and discoveries that result from our research, enriches the lives around us and drives economic development within our community.
DAR Vice President Jay E. Davenport, CFRE, leads the development and alumni relations teams across the institution. Now topping 240 staff, the development enterprise is a hybrid operation, with a strong central team dedicated to marketing and engagement, alumni relations, advancement services and centralized philanthropy services that include regional, planned and corporate and foundation giving. Each dean also has a development team that co-reports to DAR. Davenport is highly regarded as a national leader of university campaigns and recently co-chaired the national CASE conference on campaigns. He and his leadership team are dedicated to creating a sophisticated and diversified advancement operation that recruits, retains and grows its talent through targeted investments.
About our alumni
VCU has 190,000 living alumni, 45,000 of whom are health professions alumni whose educational experience was on the MCV Campus. The university’s student body is diverse, and its alumni body is, thus, increasingly so. The VCU brand is growing in national prominence, and its alumni are benefiting from the institution’s increasing profile. At the same time, they often identify more with one of the university’s schools, units or legacy institutions than they do with the university as a whole. Forty percent of the alumni base graduated in the past 10 years. A high percentage of the alumni sought professional training at VCU, as 73,000 have graduate degrees.
About the VCU Office of Alumni Relations
The central alumni relations team consists of 15 individuals who focus on alumni board development; reunion programming; recognition programming; volunteerism; student engagement; recent graduate engagement; volunteer chapter engagement through geographic regions and affinity, identity and academic interests; regional programming; career programming; lifelong learning; legacy programming; and business development. Additionally, eight professionals report to leaders in VCU’s schools and units and have partial responsibility for alumni/student engagement but do not report to this AVP.
VCU’s two alumni associations are 501(c)(3)s that work in concert with the university to design and deliver programming, particularly legacy programming. The associations have combined assets of about
$3 million managed by the university’s foundations. The umbrella alumni organization, VCU Alumni, is governed by a board of governors, and the MCV Alumni Association of VCU is governed by a board of trustees. These boards are staffed and supported by the alumni relations team.
ELEVATE strategic plan
In 2017, the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, in partnership with the Southern Institute for Research and internal and external constituents, conducted a six-month research study on the status of VCU’s alumni engagement. The findings from this study evolved into a five-year strategic plan called ELEVATE: Expanding Leadership, Enrichment and Volunteerism for Alumni Through Engagement. Simultaneously, the engagement model shifted from dues-based to inclusive.
In 2019, VCU Alumni embarked on the ELEVATE Tour, a 23-city tour that puts the strategic plan in motion and brings new opportunities and programming to elevate the alumni experience. Each tour stop includes several days of programming.
Working at VCU
VCU is a place of opportunity, where success is supported and careers thrive.
At VCU, we Make It Real through learning, research, creativity, service and discovery — the hallmarks of the VCU experience. A premier urban public research university nationally recognized as one of the best employers for diversity, VCU is a great place to work. It’s a place of opportunity, where your success is supported and your career can thrive. VCU offers employees a generous leave package, career paths for advancement, competitive pay and an opportunity to do mission-driven work.
Working in VCU DAR
Development and Alumni Relations has a talent management team that partners with a talent management task force for the successful recruitment, onboarding and development of staff. The 12-member task force guides staff development (skills, leadership, team effectiveness), new employee orientation, all-staff retreats and diversity initiatives in keeping with VCU’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan. The in-house trainer is certified to facilitate Developing and Implementing an Outward Mindset, Strength Finders and Crucial Conversations and serves as a training resource for DAR databases and systems.
VCU offers an institutional membership to CASE, and many development employees are active with the Virginia Association of Fundraising Executives. VCU also leads the way in the Richmond community, in partnership with the Association of Fundraising Professionals, to develop and grow young and diverse talent in development careers. VCU developed a new undergraduate Foundations in Fundraising course to prepare and encourage future development professionals. Additionally, DAR staff teach ASK 101, a program to develop new frontline fundraisers, and ASK 102, “So You Think You Want to Be a Fundraiser?,” to increase opportunities for transition into solicitation roles.
All applications must be submitted through the VCU Jobs website: https://www.vcujobs.com.
VCU is an affirmative action, equal opportunity employer. Women, minorities and persons with disabilities are encouraged to apply.
This profile was prepared by DAR and VCU Human Resources to provide background information related to the position.
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