Kelley Marchbanks

Senior Director of Business Development and Senior Facilitator

About Kelley

We spend so much time strategizing about the donor development process. What happens when we apply that same strategy to internal constituents—our academic and academic medicine leaders and faculty? When done right, evidence points to similar success. Imagine what you could achieve with a full portfolio of engaged academic and academic medicine leaders! Development professionals should spend time strategizing internal cultivation.

Identify/Qualify (discovery visits)

Reach out to academic and medical faculty requesting a meeting to learn more about their interests and affinity for being involved with development. Use that time to:

  • Build strategic rapport
  • Provide an advancement update
  • Discover their academic passions/ask high value questions—be sure to do your research on the faculty member’s work prior to the meeting, so you can ask informed, academically curious questions
  • Explore potential next steps
  • Agree on action

If they take the meeting, that tells you a lot. If they don’t…that tells you a great deal, as well.

Build a Trust-Based Relationship

The primary tool of building trust is listening. A subset of listening is asking questions and making statements that encourage others to share information that helps you better understand them. Highly successful development professionals recognize that a relationship is not about them. Instead, they strive to build trust in the organization and its ability to help fulfill passion. With faculty, you are building the trust they have in the work you do and the work of development. Once trust has been built, you have to keep it. Here are tactics for achieving both:

Confirm/Locate Passion

We all get so caught up in the daily grind, it is easy to lose sight of not only how we got to where we are but WHY. Both academic and medical faculty often have incredible stories for how they chose their path/profession. One of the most valuable questions you can ask is, “Can you tell me more about that?” Really explore what they do on a daily basis and find the why behind it. Through this process, you can rekindle their passion and also develop a story perfect for sharing with donors.

  • Probe deeper
  • Confirm your understanding
  • Encourage them to dream

Match Passions

Once you know all the amazing things your academic and academic medicine partners are doing, you can pull that information and help connect donors with a similar philanthropic interest to projects and programs within your college, unit, or organization. This process is as magical for your academic and academic medical partners as it is for the donor!

Partner on Evaluation and Create Meaningful ROI

It is unlikely that faculty members of any stripe will “buy-in” after the first meeting, even if you do everything right. They have to evaluate their resources. Is this truly a valuable use of their very limited time and energy?

Instead of letting faculty figure that out on their own, help them recognize the value you and the development office bring to the work they do. That means showing a true return on their investment. Of course, that might be through contributions. But that is not the only thing you can offer. You can provide connections with people who are genuinely interested in and can help advance their work in some way, recognition, or a reengagement with why they got involved in this work to begin with. In the end, academic and medical faculty are looking for the same return on investment as donors:

  • Impact—Did they really make a difference?
  • Expectations—Did you meet or exceed expectations?
  • Respect—Do you and those whom you worked with respect them as individuals?

You have this process down to a science with your donors. Once you get both academic and academic medicine faculty and leaders personally involved and benefiting from being a true partner with you and development, they will be invaluable members of your team. That will ultimately drive meaningful philanthropy for everyone involved in the work you and and all your academic partners do each and every day.


Advancement Resources has the training and tools available to help you internally cultivate academic and academic medicine partners to strengthen the culture of philanthropy at your institution. Or consider attending a virtual or in-person session of our public offering of Professional Fundraising for Deans and Academic Leaders.

Culture Change

Professional Fundraising for Deans and Academic Leaders