Kiefer fills new senior fundraising position

by Erica Buonanno | 9/14/14 6:53pm

Michael Kiefer, newly appointed vice president for presidential initiatives and principal gifts, officially began his duties on Sept. 2. Kiefer, a former vice president for institutional advancement at Haverford College with more than 25 years of experience working in higher education, will work with deep-pocketed alumni to raise money for large projects like the creation of faculty clusters and the expansion of the Hood Museum of Art and Thayer School of Engineering.

Kiefer’s role was created this year to better support the advancement division’s senior leadership. The division, founded in 2010 by former College President Jim Yong Kim, is an umbrella office for alumni relations, development and conferences and events.

The main initiatives on the advancement division’s agenda this year are securing money for the Society of Fellows postdoctoral program, faculty clusters and investment in the art and innovation district, Kiefer said. These three projects align with College President Phil Hanlon’s desire to boost experiential learning opportunities, he said.

The Society of Fellows, which will cost $2 to $3 million annually, was created to boost faculty diversity, Kiefer said. The College will invite dozens of postdoctoral students to join the faculty and teach undergraduate classes.

“They will be this cohort of about 20 young new Ph.D. students who help enliven the intellectual environment at Dartmouth and serve as models for the students about what it’s like to be a scholar,” he said.

Kiefer said that if the College is able to acquire the funds, Hanlon hopes to invite fellows to campus in one to two years.

Kiefer’s appointment follows a historic year in College fundraising. Hanlon announced in April that Dartmouth received an anonymous $100 million donation, the largest single donation in College history. In 2013, Dartmouth’s donation rate reached 44.5 percent, behind only Princeton University in the Ivy League.

The advancement division’s senior leadership team will also focus on raising funds to create up to 10 faculty clusters, each of which will be supported by a $15 to $25 million endowment, Kiefer said.

The initiative will create interdisciplinary clusters of undergraduate and professional school faculty focused on teaching and doing research on global issues. The funding will support endowed professorships, research costs, postdoctoral fellows and increased undergraduate opportunities like classes and research.

A donation from William Neukom ’64, matched with a piece of the anonymous $100 million gift Dartmouth received last year, will support the first cluster. Called the “William H. Neukom Academic Cluster in Computational Science,” it will take a data-based approach to answering questions on topics from genetics to climate change.

The trustees are voting to renovate and expand the Hood Museum of Art and Thayer as well as continuing to build the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network, Kiefer said.

These plans require raising a significant amount of money, Kiefer said, though he noted the total is undetermined. While he called this agenda “ambitious,” Kiefer said he believes it will be fully realized within the next five years.

Vice president of alumni relations Martha Beattie said she is confident Kiefer will raise the necessary money because he and the advancement team understand the “true art and science of fundraising.”

“If Michael says it can be done in five years, you can bet your bottom dollar it can be,” Beattie said.

Donor gifts to Dartmouth are typically paid over three to five years — large projects with multiple donors vary more and may take five to 10 years, senior vice president for advancement Bob Lasher said.

“I think the most important thing is this: that the president has an ambitious vision for Dartmouth over the next decade and he’s eager to realize it,” he said in an email.

Kiefer said he has a clear understanding of how institutions work.

“I think I have a good track record of securing philanthropic support,” he said. “It’s important that we’re out there trying to help alumni, parents and friends support that which the board, the president and faculty have all agreed are priorities.”

Lasher said Kiefer’s experience with both liberal arts and large international research institutions makes him a valuable addition to the advancement division’s leadership team. Kiefer has worked at Amherst College and McGill University.

“This is a person who understands that gifts of this magnitude really are achieved in partnership with the individual and the family who are directing their charitable contribution to the institution,” Lasher said.

Kiefer said that it is important for the advancement division to match alumni interests with College priorities. Kiefer said the advancement division’s priority is to engage potential donors in conversations with Hanlon, Provost Carolyn Dever and other administrators.

While Beattie said that the alumni relations and development divisions have “distinctly different personalities,” both Kiefer and Beattie agreed that the two operations are an integrated unit.

The level of connection alumni feel with the College is one of the main reasons the advancement division is optimistic about the upcoming year, Kiefer said.

“There’s so much promise and feelings of hope about Hanlon’s presidency,” he said. “Everybody feels that we got the right guy, and now’s the time.”

The College is also seeking a vice president for development, who would join Lasher, Kiefer, Beattie and chief operating officer for advancement Ann Root Keith on the advancement division’s senior leadership team, according to a job positing on the website of search firm Isaacson, Miller.