Developing Our Future
In December 2014, Danielle Mack, CFRE, joined the Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors College as its new Director of Development. She recently sat down with us to discuss her past achievements and her goals for fundraising for the Ogden Honors College.
How did you get started working in development?
I always like to say I fell into fundraising and development. I attended Northwestern State University in Natchitoches—a wonderful small town—and I truly enjoyed my time there. I graduated with a journalism degree with a concentration in public relations, and moved to Houston, where I did marketing for an engineering firm, and later public involvement work for a marketing consulting firm. In my role with the engineering firm, I planned many employee and client events. And that was something that I always loved to do—organizing and planning events. I then was attracted to an opportunity at Baylor College of Medicine that was largely events-focused, working with a team of professionals that organized all the fundraising events for the College, affiliated groups, and departments. Primarily our role was to raise funds for the College, and that’s where I got my feet wet, and learned the basics about development and building relationships with donors and volunteers. I walked in not knowing how strategic and rewarding the fundraising world was—I didn’t realize initially that it was actually a career you could have, prior to me getting that job—and I left with a different picture. I just totally enjoyed it.
What brought you to Baton Rouge?
Well, I’m originally from Baton Rouge, born and raised, love the city. I met my husband, James, in Houston. He’s originally from Lake Charles, and is an LSU alum. So when we met, we had that in common, that we had both lived in Baton Rouge. So—much to my mother’s excitement—we decided to move back home to Baton Rouge. We have a five year-old daughter, Autumn, and so of course Grandma was very, very happy to have her close. And I accepted a position at Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, and I worked there for almost five years.
What kind of work were you doing at Mary Bird Perkins?
I was brought on board to lead the special events program. As part of my role, I was charged with developing a successful third party events program. We created the Geaux Pink program, which gave individuals and local businesses the opportunity to raise funds to benefit the Cancer Center. Since its inception, the Geaux Pink program has allowed hundreds of organizations to join the fight against cancer in a fun way. Not everybody is able to write a check for $5,000, but every penny makes a difference. A $100 donation can buy a mammogram for someone that can’t afford that. So Geaux Pink gives everybody the opportunity to support, at any level. I was also asked to create a signature fundraising event. Together with a committee, lots of focus groups, and lots of planning and strategizing, we built The Taste, a fun-filled evening where five hundred guests come together for a great cause. Just having that many people involved, and being able to later show them the impact of their gift—that meant a lot to me. Knowing that, Hey, I had something to do with that, is always awesome. So these two programs were very important to me. They were my babies.
Ultimately my role evolved, and I oversaw the entire annual giving program, which included the annual campaign. And then someone shared this great opportunity with me to lead the development efforts of the Ogden Honors College.
That was going to be my next question! What made you interested in the job at the Ogden Honors College?
I was very intrigued by the position because one of the things I love to do is build programs. You know, I truly enjoyed my role at Mary Bird Perkins. There was a direct impact between what I was doing and the community. I was fighting cancer every day: I was able to tell somebody, “I’m saving lives.” And I loved it. So it was a difficult decision to leave, but LSU was the right choice for my new journey. It’s the flagship university, one of the pillars of the community. So when I learned about all of the things that were going on at the Honors College at LSU—that there was a new Dean, the renovations of the French House, all of the great things that the students are doing—I was just hooked.
What are some of your goals or visions for what you want to build here?
Right now, I’m looking to learn as much as I possibly can about the strengths that we have—the high points and things that set us apart from other universities and make the Ogden Honors College special. I’ve also been meeting with our loyal donors. I’m sharing with them what we’re doing here at the Honors College, and I’m also serving as an ambassador to people in the community that maybe aren’t yet aware of all that we have here at LSU and at the Honors College. The Honors College is a hidden jewel. There’s so much that we’re doing, that our students are doing, that I want to tell people about—like our students’ community service work, or the research opportunities that are available to them. One of the things that really excites me about the Honors College is the idea of its being a campus within a larger campus. To me, having smaller classes, and being able to live and play and work together in that one spot, and really learn with your peers—having that smaller dynamic can be hugely impactful. So I look forward to helping build out that environment, and make that a reality.
There are so many high-achieving students in our state who really want to go above and beyond, and they have this opportunity, right here at home, in their own backyard, to get this quality education and be challenged. They can have that here. They don’t have to go elsewhere to have that experience. So my plan is to work closely with Dean Earle and the Honors College team to find opportunities and ways we can really enhance Ogden students’ education. Over the next few months I’ll be working to connect and share our story with our alumni and supporters, and to identify opportunities and potential partnerships within our community.
From what you know from your first two months on the job, what you would say to a donor to convince them to give to the Ogden Honors College?
Probably what I would say is: “You are changing a life.” Because really, they are. If someone’s contributing to a scholarship, or contributing to help a student study abroad who may normally not have had an opportunity to go without that support—that experience could literally change that student’s life. We’re not only educating, we’re preparing future leaders. Ogden Honors students are really learning about how to contribute to Louisiana and to society as a whole. I love connecting donors to things that give them joy. For the donor, it’s the intangible type of return; you’re not getting something in your hand, but just to know that you really made a difference in someone’s life is, to me, huge.
Story by Liz Billet, Ogden Honors College, firstname.lastname@example.org