First advancement candidate visits campus
With five kids out of the house and much of his career spent in the Southeast, Ron Dempsey is looking for a change of scenery.
“We feel this is kind of a liberating time in our lives, and we are looking to get away,” Dempsey said. “I just love the prospect of coming to Idaho, and the university in particular.”
Dempsey is the first candidate to make his pitch to be the University of Idaho’s next vice president for University Advancement. He is one of four candidates vying for the position, and he spoke to an audience at the Borah Theater Tuesday.
Dempsey currently serves as vice president for advancement and university development at Southern Polytechnic State University (SPSU) in Georgia.
Dempsey said UI’s research mission and its student-centric education compelled him to apply for the position. He said he was also attracted to UI because of the size of the student population and the small-town feel of Moscow.
“I love the town of Moscow,” he said. “I grew up in a town just like this.”
If selected, Dempsey said he would establish clear funding priorities for the university as well as develop individual priority lists for specific colleges. He said having clear funding priorities allows fundraisers to raise larger sums of money in areas that would have a greater impact within the college and the university.
“What that does, it actually lets our development officers say ‘No,'” Dempsey said of raising money for a specific event or a smaller funding priority.
Dempsey said he would collaborate with deans to develop funding priorities and encourage fundraisers to focus on raising money according to the priority list.
Dempsey congratulated UI staff members on completing the successful Inspiring Futures campaign that raised $261 million for the university, surpassing its goal of $225 million.
“To not have a $20 or $30 million gift is extraordinary,” he said. “That, I think, bodes extremely well and that is extremely encouraging.”
Dempsey said UI should move into a post-campaign mode by making donors feel good about their contributions to the latest campaign by highlighting the positive effects of their donations. In a post-campaign mode, he said UI should focus on smaller campaigns, and if possible, engage different sets of donors who were not as involved in the latest campaign.
“It keeps the donors interested,” Dempsey said.
To fully engage alumni, Dempsey said the university should find ways to appeal to and engage different parts of the alumni community. In his experience, he said most alumni want networking events and the ability to do business with other alumni.
Alumni surveys are a good way to find out what younger alumni, middle-aged alumni and older alumni want out of university events, Dempsey said.
Dempsey said it is good to have healthy competition between colleges when it comes to fundraising, but there should always be the underlying understanding that raising funds is a collaborative effort.
At SPSU, Dempsey oversaw multiple departments, served on the president’s executive senior staff and managed $45 million in assets as chief operating officer of the university’s foundation. He has been in the position since 2005.
Before SPSU, Dempsey served as vice president for institutional advancement at Shorter University in his hometown of Rome, Georgia. While at Shorter, Dempsey managed a successful $70 million capital campaign, and the university saw its annual gifts rise by more than 140 percent.
Dempsey has also served in other administrative roles at Presbyterian College, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Jefferson Community College. He spent eight years as a professor at Presbyterian College and served as an adjunct professor for several years.
Ryan Tarinelli can be reached at email@example.com