Louis Diez, Community & Fundraising Expert, joins Almabase as VP, Community
After over a decade of front-line fundraising for worthy causes, I'm starting a new chapter as VP, Community at Almabase and Host of the Donor Participation Project
My first real job in this industry began almost exactly ten years ago, when I networked my way into the alumni office of my alma mater, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville as an administrative assistant with an MBA and a Ph.D. The passion for the backend of fundraising has remained with me ever since. How do things get done in fundraising offices? What processes help—or hinder—our success? Will looking at things differently help? Or are we “building on the shoulders of giants” and shouldn’t change what isn’t broken?
However, my passion for the space started much before that.
Armed with a stack of resumes, the Internet, and a place to stay in NYC, I ran my first direct response campaign to find myself an internship. As I think of the outcome now, the results were life-changing and yet the ROI at the time didn’t feel so great: maybe an early fundraising lesson?
I landed two internships at Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and a similarly prestigious boutique consulting firm: AEA. Lincoln Center’s CEO at the time was known for his fundraising prowess. Reynold Levy would tell his employees that the only reason he would ever interrupt their meetings was if a trustee was calling. As I progressed into more strategic roles, planned successful fundraising campaigns, and managed talented teams these early lessons stayed with me.
Fast-forward ten years, and here I am with Almabase and as the founder of the fastest-growing professional organization in philanthropy (joindpp.org).
To those who aren’t familiar with Almabase or what we do – we are a team of 40-something innovators on a mission that’s very dear to me: making quality education accessible to everyone.
This is what brought me to this organization. Their heart is in helping nonprofits, mainly in higher education, improve in the area of biggest opportunity in our industry. How do you make it easy to run highly engaged communities? How do you connect engagement to giving behaviors? What do annual giving, alumni affairs, and communication professionals need to do a better job? Yes, they have an incredibly user-friendly software but their true superpower is in caring about the right things.
How I Discovered Almabase and their Mission
When Kalyan flew in to meet at my neighborhood coffee store, he had an interesting idea to run by me: powerful communities are poised to rule the non-profit sector, but the problem right now is in setting up these communities.
That’s where I came into the picture. With my experience building thriving communities like the Donor Participation Project, I could see where Kalyan was headed with this vision, and naturally, I wanted in.
However, having an interesting problem to work on is only half the reason I chose to join Almabase. The other half, the one that resonates with me on a personal level, is about their values.
- Firstly, Almabase’s mission speaks to me deeply. They’re on a mission to democratize quality education, and make it affordable and accessible to everyone. As an outsider, I had my own set of challenges getting a foothold in the industry, so I appreciate what Almabase is trying to do here.
With student debt being a growing challenge, it's only natural for alumni to be the bridge that makes education accessible to all.
- Secondly, I think they have a fantastic product that empowers advancement teams of all sizes. Here’s what I told Kalyan over our coffee:
"If I were to create a platform to support our community-building and fundraising work, it would be Almabase."
- Finally, it’s the culture, stupid. They say culture eats strategy for breakfast. In this case, because of the time change with Bangalore it is more likely supper, but the principle holds. The Almabase team is full of incredibly hard-working and passionate individuals. It is hard to imagine such a group not succeeding at whatever they set their minds to do. All of this is evident by the amazing things they’ve done so far.
How Communities can Shape the Future of Alumni Relations and Advancement
Almabase is making a huge bet on communities being one of the central drivers of success for nonprofits in the next few years, and I’m thrilled to get a front-row seat on the ride.
Almabase lives and swears by alumni-centricity – the idea of building value-driven relationships with your alumni network. Incidentally, creating and sharing value is what makes a community strong and purposeful for all its members. Clearly, there are common threads between the two.
The way I see it, if institutions want to get better at alumni centricity, they need to leverage the power of strong alumni networks. That’s how I come into the picture – I’ve had my fair share of experience building communities that work. That’s why I’ll be working with Almabase’s vast network of institutions in helping them shape these communities.
It’s a big bet, but powerful alumni communities lead to higher donations raised with lower costs, which can empower the next generation of students with quality education. Everyone’s a winner, and I’m thrilled to see how this shapes up.
So there you have it – the not-so-brief recap of the events over these last few weeks. What are your predictions for the future of this space?
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