Med­i­cal school finds cre­ative way to con­nect with donors

Mem­bers of ‘so­ci­eties’ are in­vited to six events a year to hear from fac­ulty, staff.

Austin American-Statesman Sunday - - COMMUNITY NEWS - By Mon­ica Williams

Fundrais­ing pro­fes­sion­als at the Univer­sity of Texas’ Dell Med­i­cal School are work­ing with the com­mu­nity to craft new ways to en­gage more peo­ple in giv­ing.

The med­i­cal school, which just wel­comed its sec­ond class of stu­dents this year, can’t rely on the tra­di­tional sources of donors yet. It lacks a vast net­work of alumni most univer­sity fundrais­ers usu­ally tap, and even though stu­dents pro­vide med­i­cal care, the new school lacks a his­tory of “grate­ful pa­tients” who be­come donors.

“We don’t have vol­un­teer op­por­tu­ni­ties, peo­ple just can’t join our board,” said Court­ney Manuel, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of de­vel­op­ment for Dell Med­i­cal School, de­scrib­ing the usual way non­prof­its build a pipe­line for do­na­tions. “So our chal­lenge was to cre­ate en­gage­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties for the com­mu­nity that aren’t $1 mil­lion gifts,” she said.

Last fall, Manuel launched a mem­ber­ship group called the So­ci­ety for Health and Busi­ness to of­fer the Austin busi­ness com­mu­nity a way to learn about the school and sup­port it. Mem­bers are asked to give $2,500 a year. The suc­cess of that or­ga­ni­za­tion has led to two new so­ci­eties, the So­ci­ety for Health and Women, with mem­bers asked to give $2,500 a year, and the So­ci­ety for Health and Well­ness, with mem­bers asked to give $10,000 a year. So­ci­ety mem­bers are in­vited to six events a year to hear from fac­ulty and staff about projects, in­no­va­tions and ideas. On Aug. 23, for ex­am­ple, the So­ci­ety for Health and Well­ness heard from Larry Speck of Page, the ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign firm that de­signed the school’s Health Learn­ing Build­ing.

“The idea is to bring a group of like­minded peo­ple to­gether around these re­ally in­ter­est­ing topics,” said Manuel. Most of the money con­trib­uted by mem­bers fund schol­ar­ships and health ser­vices for pa­tients.

Adam Blum, a pri­vate in­vest­ment pro­fes­sional and one of the found­ing mem­bers of the Health and Busi­ness So­ci­ety, says mem­bers en­joy learn­ing about the school but also feel em­pow­ered to rep­re­sent com­mu­nity con­cerns.” Those first few years af­ter the school broke ground, I didn’t feel like there was a real chance for peo­ple who are in­ter­ested in what’s go­ing but not nec­es­sar­ily be able to write a $1 mil­lion check,” said Blum. “So we thought about how we can en­gage busi­ness lead­ers and keep the med­i­cal school ac­count­able be­cause we are tax­pay­ers and con­cerned cit­i­zens.

“The so­ci­eties are a way for peo­ple who aren’t in­grained in the med­i­cal school to still un­der­stand it and be a part of it,” said Blum. Manuel says so­ci­ety mem­bers also be­come am­bas­sadors for the school. So much of fundrais­ing for the school, she says, re­quires ed­u­cat­ing donors about Dell Med­i­cal School in par­tic­u­lar, as well as a med­i­cal school in gen­eral.

When so­ci­ety mem­bers un­der­stand the school and its mis­sion, she says, “they turn into our ad­vo­cates and open more doors for us.”

PHOTO BY THOMAS MERED­ITH

Larry Speck of Austin-based ar­chi­tec­ture and en­gi­neer­ing firm Page speaks to the Dell Med So­ci­ety for Health & Well­ness about de­sign as it re­lates to well­ness on Aug. 23.

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