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A Conversation With James Graham

Director of College Advancement, Long Island Campus

Photos by Robert Amsler

 

There isn’t a simple way to explain James Graham’s title. St. Joseph’s College’s director of college advancement for the L.I. Campus, Mr. Graham’s job description continues to evolve since he joined the Office of Institutional Advancement in June 2012. Thus far, he’s taken the task of furthering the L.I. Campus by working with faculty and staff to discuss new scholarships, fundraising projects, media expansion initiatives and a Long Island annual fund.

A York College of Pennsylvania graduate, Mr. Graham has experience working as a fundraiser in education and in health services, and most recently worked in sales as part of his own consulting company. We had the opportunity to sit down with Mr. Graham, which was easy because his office is next to our kitchen, and because James Graham is extremely conversational, personable and eager to share his vision for the future of St. Joseph’s College.

What drew you to St. Joseph’s College?

The opportunity to work with such a wonderful team of fundraising, alumni and communication professionals, as well as the opportunity to work with a friend of mine, [Vice President for Institutional Advancement] Nancy Connors. Nancy and I worked together to teach a course at Philanthropy Day, 10 years ago. We’ve been in touch ever since … I knew I had some great people that were going to end up on my team. The roles were defined when I started.

We’ve been extremely lucky that Carrie Graf-Behlen [manager of special events] will continue working on major events for the College; she’s been extremely successful. Corri Lincker, [manager of prospect research and database] is familiar with the area because she’s been involved with alumni for a long time. She’s moving into an area that does research and handles our database. And we’re extremely lucky to have Karen Pariti from the Office of Multicultural

Student Life move into our department. She’ll be overseeing our newly founded Annual Fund program in Patchogue. … We’re doing a lot of outreach to alumni from the Long Island Campus. We think that with some of the programs, some of the new initiatives we create, that alumni are going to be motivated to join us in celebrating an outstanding college.

There are a lot of opportunities, and things that need funding here and I think that people want to know the specifics of where their gift will be going. We’re going to make a real push to give people specific ideas about where their money is going to end up. And they’re going to be excited to help us create some really interesting programs to help the students.

How do you think the fundraising climate is changing with outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites?

Social media and digital media as a whole are totally different and have really only become part of fundraising in the last five years; really less than that for most organizations. Very few people do it well, but knowing the team that we have in place — the new digital strategy team that we’ve created specifically to tackle this — I think that we’ll have outstanding communication for our alumni, for our friends. And when we’re able to communicate better using those methods they’ll be excited to hear about what we’re working on, and help us fund some of those projects.

What’s on the horizon for the Long Island Campus?

Creating an annual fund, and bolstering annual giving to the Century Fund. We have a lot of different ideas, we’re going to see how we can approach alumni with different specific events and ideas. With the new Gary Smith Tournament, that’ll be one area that our athletes will be able to get behind. Helping to create a tournament to raise the profile of the school and our soccer program as well as scholarship programs — we are also planning to create an emergency scholarship program that will help students in dire need of financial assistance.

How do you feel about being SJC’s new director of college advancement for the Long Island Campus?

I’m excited that we have buy-in. And that’s a big thing. I know from my conversations with S. Elizabeth [A. Hill, C.S.J., J.D.], my conversations with Dean [Christopher] Frost [Ph.D.], the ongoing conversation that I have with Nancy and [Richard] Greenwald [Ph.D., Brooklyn academic dean]: everybody’s behind creating a successful fundraising program. They understand the work that goes into it. I think everyone understands that we’re not going to raise $100 million in six months. People understand that this is a long-term process, but it’s necessary for the future of SJC. For any college to be successful you need to have alumni, friends, parents, faculty and staff all contributing and buying into the mission of the college. So I’m excited, I think we have all of the buy-in now its just taking that time to develop the right plan that suits the alumni here.

How will you coordinate with the fundraising team in Brooklyn?

Right now, Brooklyn alumni contribute the majority of the annual gifts to the College. They have been so generous in leading the way. Stephanie Ganley [director of advancement operations], Kim Tuthill [manager of annual giving], Clare Kehoe [assistant vice president for grants and major gifts], Mark Wilson [senior grant writer] and and the Brooklyn staff have done an outstanding job, and I’m working with them to figure out ways that we can replicate some of their successful programs out here in Long Island. And I think that eventually our alumni will be contributing at the rates that the Brooklyn alumni are contributing because I know how much our alumni love the school. The alumni program here is outstanding, Paige Carbone [director of alumni relations] is doing some outstanding work, and her staff has done a great job getting our alumni interested in what we’re doing.

The biggest problem that every nonprofit has when they’re not fundraising is that they’re not asking, or not asking as well and as often as they should. That’s the nature of an organization; you need to make that understanding that you’re going to be asking, that you are a nonprofit. Once people get used to that feeling then fundraising becomes commonplace, people expect to make their gift because they know what they’re supporting. While we’ve communicated a lot of great things going on at campus, I think that creating a fundraising program helps us showcase what we could be doing if we had the support.

With such a tight-knit community already in place at St. Joe’s, I know for a fact that our alumni, faculty and friends are going to jump at the opportunity to participate.

To make a gift to St. Joseph’s College, visit giving.sjcny.edu.

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