Member Spotlight: Chris Smith

Name: Chris Smith
Title: Assistant Vice President for College Advancement 
Organization: SUNY Geneseo
Member since: 2021

How long have you been working in the fundraising profession?
I’ve been in higher education fundraising for almost ten years. I left a successful but unfulfilling career as a financial advisor in 2012 to take a position that would give me a much greater sense of purpose. I started as a Leadership Giving Officer at the University of Rochester, worked as a Major Gift Officer at Rochester Institute of Technology, and now I manage a team of frontline fundraisers, in addition to carrying a major gifts portfolio, at SUNY Geneseo.

What do you love most about fundraising?
The best part of my job is showing donors the impact of their philanthropy, introducing them to students, and watching their hearts grow as they see how their gift helped improve that student’s life.

Why did you decide to join AFPGV?
SUNY Geneseo is only a 40-minute drive from downtown Rochester, and less than 20 minutes from Henrietta, but there’s a misperception that it’s on the other side of the world. The Genesee Valley region has a massive community of passionate, successful fundraisers who are tireless advocates for the great work being done at nonprofits in our community. I want to meet other AFPGV members, learn from their experience, share some of mine, and reintroduce SUNY Geneseo as a vibrant member of the Greater Rochester community.

What do you enjoy most about being an AFPGV member?
There are so many opportunities to meet and learn from successful, experienced fundraisers. Although I only joined a couple of months ago, I’ve already had members reach out to me to introduce themselves and make me feel part of the community.

What is your advice to other AFPGV members?
I think it changes based upon the context and whatever I’ve recently read. Maybe: change your default Zoom settings so anyone can share their screen.

Actually, no. I mean, that *is* pretty solid advice. But I’ll use a quote from The ONE Thing by Gary Keller. “What’s the ONE thing I can do, such that by doing it, everything else will be easier or unnecessary?” Figure out that one thing, and then prioritize doing it.

Why is Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (I.D.E.A.) important to you and for the work we do every day as fundraising professionals?

I believe it’s vital to view the work we do as fundraising professionals through the lens of Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access. We must build diverse fundraising teams, volunteer boards and committees in order to draw from the experiences and perspectives that diversity brings.

Those perspectives will help us better communicate and engage with constituents who might otherwise feel unheard or excluded. Those experiences will help us identify areas of need, and areas of opportunity, that our organizations may not have recognized. That insight will help us more effectively deliver on our organizations’ missions. And at the end of the day, those outcomes are perfectly aligned with what we’re trying to achieve as fundraisers.

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