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Advancement and Academics: An Essential Partnership part 1

June 2021
Written by: Janet Sailian
Featuring: Joanne Shoveller, University of Waterloo

Seasoned advancement leaders understand the importance of working effectively with faculty members and academic leadership to enhance relationships with alumni, potential and current donors and external communities.

The perennial popularity of CCAE’s Development for Deans Workshops - led by McMaster University’s incomparable Lorna Somers - testifies to academics’ and advancement’s mutual need to raise engagement and support for the essential work of educational institutions.

Part 1 of Advancement and Academics, includes a wide-ranging conversation with Joanne Shoveller, Vice-President, Advancement, University of Waterloo. Shoveller shared lessons and principles from her 34-year advancement career that encompasses three Ontario universities, a two-year posting in Hong Kong and four years at INSEAD Business School in France. Her perspective on connecting and communicating was honed as Marketing and Communications Coordinator in the Faculty of Part-Time and Continuing Education at Western University, from 1987 - 94.

Joanne’s experiences, insights and key learnings from her time at each institution are followed by global lessons over the course of her career to date.

In part 2 of Advancement and Academics, we conclude with a Q and A on advancement and academics with representatives of two universities, one Institute of Technology and an independent school:

Brian Bowman, Director of Alumni and Development, SAIT (Southern Alberta Institute of Technology)
Darina Landa, Executive Director, Advancement at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto
Tracy MacLeod, CFRE, Chief Advancement Officer, Laurentian University
Doug Mann, Executive Director of Philanthropy and Alumni, Trinity College School

Insights from Ivey Business School


  • Major Gift Officer and Manager, Ivey Campaign, 1994 - 97
  • Director, Asian Development, Ivey Business School, Western University, 1997 - 99, Hong Kong
  • Director, Alumni and Corporate Development, 1999 - 2001; and Director, MBA Program Office, Ivey Business School, 2001 - 04

At Western I partnered closely with three or four academics who were champions for advancement. In 1995 we had a new President who wanted to build a presence in Asia, and the Dean had a vision to internationalize the Business School by sending faculty to Asia for three-week immersive sessions of teaching, case-writing and research.

As coordinator of the President’s first trip to Asia in 1995, I started working with the Dean, Associate Deans and Director of the Ivey Hong Kong Campus to build the school’s relationship with our major Asian benefactor.

I lived in Hong Kong for two years to support establishment of the Hong Kong Campus, heading Asian advancement for the Ivey Business School, setting up a $20 million fundraising platform for teaching and research, and ultimately playing a key role in the successful completion of $75 million Ivey Campaign.

I felt that my role was to be the “do-er”. l listened hard to the donors’ and the academics’ vision and worked to demonstrate that I understood their needs, concerns and constraints.

Key learnings from Shoveller's time at Ivey include:

  • Find allies at every level and niche - individual academics, Deans, administrators and other leaders.
  • Earn the right to be heard by listening intently to academics and to donors.
  • Find the wins. Get things done.

Insights from the University of Guelph

Role: Vice-President, Advancement, University of Guelph, 2004 - 2012

At Guelph I focused on the story and the vision, with a close ally in the Director of Communications who was also eager to develop the brand messaging.

Our major donors wanted a differentiated, credible, relevant story. The themes that emerged were: food, environment, animal and human health, and communities.

I worked with Deans, VPs and faculty members, listening closely to their visions and ambitions. I participated in many brainstorming sessions, prepared white papers, and ran them by people on the ground in the Faculties. Then I spent a lot of time listening to donors and matching their desire for impact with the vision of the academics.

I liked tough faculty members. If you’re intelligent and truly curious, they will work with you. I earned the right to go back and ask new questions, test out ideas. The “thank you” for their time is to do something valuable for them that brings results. If you can turn their ideas into something they can fundraise for, they will support you.

After we developed the Better Planet Project, the Deans incorporated its themes as pillars of their strategic plan. This was an incredible validation of the shared vision. But a small number of academic leaders didn’t agree with the focus. You have to understand and accept that not everyone will agree with all decisions.

The result: In seven years, at Guelph we tripled annual fundraising to almost $30 million.

Key learnings from Shoveller's time at UofG include:

  • Hone your ability to educate faculty on how to interact with donors. Faculty love working with donors who “get it”.
  • Get very connected to faculty priorities and academic agendas. Work hard at establishing and cultivating relationships with academics, just like with donors.
  • Cultivate humility and genuine interest. Recognize academics’ high intellect and that they are topic experts who have spent years on their subject area.
    • Understand that academics have a very different perspective on time. They are tenured and have time to research. It’s a different scenario than for advancement staff, who have quarterly and yearly metrics and operate on a much tighter timeline.
    • Watch for any possible resentment or disagreement among other senior academic administrators of a particular direction in fundraising.

Insights from INSEAD

Role: Associate Dean, Advancement and Alumni Relations, INSEAD Business School (Fontainebleau, France), 2012 - 2016

INSEAD is an academic institution, a business school and a cause. It receives no government funding, and runs on degree and executive education tuition.

Faculty in the MBA program do research and also provide executive education to almost 12,000 students per year. Education is provided in three languages: English, French and German.

At INSEAD, business is considered a global force for good and diversity is highly valued. No more than ten percent of any class can come from any one culture, and the 60 people on the INSEAD advancement team came from more than 20 countries.

When I arrived in 2012, alumni felt abandoned. They had organized on their own, spinning off 47 separate national alumni associations. Our task was to invite and pull in all the disparate alumni groups. With the support of the Dean, Alumni Association, Advisory Board and many faculty, we engaged more than 50,000 global leaders in the vision that business is a force for good.

Under the Dean’s leadership, our team developed the foundation for the €200 million Force for Good campaign, and some exciting major gifts resulted. In the period that I was there, we quadrupled fundraising results by working with faculty and really getting the case for support to gel.

Key Learnings from Shoveller's time at INSEAD include:

  • Find the hubs where casual interactions build relationships with faculty and help you delve into their culture. At INSEAD it was the lunchroom. We needed to socialize with faculty a lot to build rapport, in addition to attending their meetings and immersing ourselves in their work.
  • Cultivate the alumni and donors whom the faculty deeply respect. Leveraging those links can be key.
  • Understand the academic structure. There are always politics, and some will be opaque to you as a fundraiser. Find your champions who can help to navigate the system.


Insights from the University of Waterloo

Role: Vice-President, Advancement, University of Waterloo, 2017 - present

In 2018 I realized we had an opportunity to align the campaign plan and strategic plan. This was an extraordinary opportunity to have academic leadership build a future campaign platform. We have fundraising teams within the Faculties that could rally to the cause, and there is exceptional external support for what we are building in the quiet phase of a major fundraising campaign.

The dynamics between academic leaders and advancement are continuously changing, particularly in a very decentralized institution. As we have built this campaign, we have had to adjust to structural and strategic views continuously. What has provided continuous guidance and strength has been our external volunteers and donors who want to see the university excel.

With over 150 fundraising and alumni staff, we have transformed alumni engagement and communications programs with a responsive, metrics-driven approach to engaging 200,000+ alumni in reputation building and fundraising.

Key Learnings from Shoveller's current role at uWaterloo include:

  • Academics need to hear from their academic peers.
  • You can’t anticipate some dynamics because they don’t involve you. They are built on culture, academic structure, tradition - and you need to accept and understand their importance.
  • Conversations often need to happen in stages to build broad understanding and acceptance.
  • If a faculty member deeply respects an alum or even a student, include them in the project.
  • Faculty love data, peer reviews and quantifiable metrics.

Global learnings about advancement and academics:
  • Know thyself. Fundraisers are serious people pleasers. Recognize that you are built to be overly empathetic, and are primed to dissect meaning and over-analyze. Sometimes a situation isn’t yours to own.
  • Some institutions do not yet have a strong culture of philanthropy, and you have an opportunity to provide considerable education about the ways of advancement.
  • There are 15 to 20% of academics that you just won’t be able to reach or influence, as they are simply not interested in philanthropy. Focus on the ones who see the potential.
  • If you’re going towards a mountain, you can see it from a long distance. But you can’t see the next hill until you summit the closest one. Take things in stages: Climb high, sleep low.


Continue to Part 2 of Advancement and academics - Q&A with advancement leaders