VP for Advancement Imad B. Baalbaki led a high-level team from AUB (Associate Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Salma Dannawi Oueida, Associate Vice President for Advancement Services and Special Events Soha Hmaidan, Associate Vice President for Development Walid Katergi, and Director of Advancement Services Rami Abi Jomaa) to Dubai on February 19-20, 2020 to participate in the CASE Advancement Conference in the Middle East (MEAC). CASE, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, is a global membership association of educational institutions in more than 60 countries around the world. It helps CASE members strengthen relationships with their constituencies in a number of ways, including organizing regional conferences such as MEAC.
The five members of the AUB team were among 19 speakers who addressed a wide range of issues during the two-day conference including how to reach alumni, ways to increase engagement, case studies on various fundraising programs, new and time-tested fundraising tools, factors that make a strong institutional brand, and matters related to communications and marketing. AVP Hmaidan was also chair of the conference planning committee that included both AVP Oueida and AVP Katergi.
“This was CASE’s third annual Advancement conference in the Middle East,” explained AVP Hmaidan. “All of us in the Advancement profession find these opportunities to get together and share best practices very useful – and informative.” Participants from 10 countries and 19 institutions participated in the annual CASE conference.
During the opening plenary on February 19, VP Baalbaki and Mrs. May Makhzoumi, president of the Makhzoumi Foundation in Lebanon, discussed how philanthropy enhanced economic well-being. “We wanted to start paying back the country in which we were brought up,” said Mrs. Makhzoumi explaining the decision to establish the family foundation. “All of our programs have the goal of empowering individuals and improving local communities,” she said.
VP Baalbaki spoke about “why philanthropy matters” – the theme of the opening plenary session. He related the topic to AUB Philanthropy Week, an initiative at AUB several years ago to recognize and thank donors. (Its theme, incidentally, was “AUB Matters.”)
“Two years ago, we decided to start something different, which was Philanthropy Week. We highlighted all over campus the opportunities that philanthropy had created: from named classrooms, to conference and seminar rooms, to named facilities and buildings, to named scholarships. We also sent a special note on Valentine’s Day to our alumni donors to just thank them for their love and commitment to AUB. This was the first time we sent a message to our community without asking our constituency to do anything for us or the university,” he explained.
During two presentations on Wednesday afternoon, AVP Oueida led a group discussion about the metrics that are useful to measure alumni engagement – and their limitations. She also spoke about the especially valuable role that offices of alumni relations play in all institutions. “Offices of alumni relations should start taking themselves more seriously - because once you do you will realize the value of the treasure that you have and its importance in affecting the work of your colleagues in other areas and your institution in general,” said AVP Oueida.
In her remarks, AVP Oueida also explained how AUB had engaged individual alumni and alumni chapters in recent months to support the university during an especially challenging time. “The recent and ongoing situation in Lebanon required us to change our priorities. Programs and initiatives had to be reworked to secure urgently needed support for student scholarships and needy patients seeking care at the AUB medical center. Our alumni wanted to help and were happy to hear from us,” she explained.
AVP Katergi gave a presentation on Thursday afternoon about volunteer groups and volunteer management. “These groups play an invaluable role, but institutions need to have a proper system in place to identify, recruit, manage, and steward volunteers,” he explained.
During his remarks, AVP Katergi spoke about what AUB had learned during its many years of working with volunteers and volunteer groups. He also led a group discussion of regional best practices and an informal workshop in which participants role-played in typical scenarios they might encounter as gift officers.
The focus of Abi Jomaa’s presentation on Thursday was the opportunities and challenges of crowdfunding within a structured fundraising setting. He discussed the priorities and long-term fundraising goals of higher education institutions vis-à-vis short-term crowdfunding drives.
“Higher ed institutions should have their online presence and online giving platforms ready, flexible, and well-developed to attend to the growing needs of their constituency to fundraise,” Abi Jomaa explained. “ They should also have their staff prepared to address those fundraising needs to ensure proper donor recognition and acknowledgement.”
Philanthropy allows not-for-profit institutions to leverage their efforts to advance their missions. “It is especially in challenging times such as the ones that we are living through today in Lebanon, the region, and indeed the world, that institutions really rely on Advancement to augment their revenue stream,” said VP Baalbaki. “Fundraising, alumni relations, and advancement services are always important though. All of us who work in this field feel this responsibility. Conferences, such as CASE MEAC, offer a great venue and platform for the exchange of ideas and best practice.”
Check the photos here.