March 2010—Donna Duhe, M.A. ‘80, grew up appreciating the value of higher education. Her parents never had the opportunity to go to college, so they made sure Duhe and her five brothers did. Now, as the Cal Alumni Association’s new Chief Development Officer, Duhe can make attending a university a reality for many others.
After earning a master’s in sociology at Cal, Duhe obtained an MBA and joined the sales force of the international communications firm RR Donnelley. For the last 7 of her 20-year career there, Duhe served as vice president of global sales and telecommunications, until volunteering changed her life. "It crystallized what was really important to me, where I felt I was able to make a difference, how that difference was going to make me feel, and the effect it would have on others," she said. That experience prodded her to join the development team at United Way. "It felt good waking up in the morning, and it felt good going home at night, knowing that I helped raise and direct dollars to important programs, and hopefully helped change individual lives."
Since February, Duhe has been bringing her passion, expertise, and leadership skills to further CAA’s mission of service to alumni and the University. "I jumped at the opportunity to come back to Cal, to be part of this phenomenal institution and help raise the level of giving and support," she said. "It just seemed like the perfect position for me."
Her favorite campus spot: Sproul Plaza. "Right out there on the steps," she said. "You see just about everything out there."
What is your role as CAA’s chief development officer?
We’re an independent 501(c)(3) [nonprofit], and so it’s critically important for us to raise the monies that allow us to connect our alumni to our University—whether it’s through our programs and services, or through our scholarships. My role here is to raise the level of development, and to inform and educate our donors and potential donors about the work we’re doing and about the University.
What are some challenges your team faces?
The challenge is that it’s not going to happen overnight. It takes time to develop relationships and guide individuals in their philanthropic interests and efforts. The current economic times have changed how people are spending their money, and individuals are being much more thoughtful about where their dollars are going. But there are many alumni out there who really care about Cal. They’re concerned about rising costs, decreasing funds, and the need for scholarship dollars to ensure we have a population of students that reflects the area in which we live. Our role is really even more critical now. By letting them know what we’re doing with their dollars, we can assure our donors that they’ve donated to a good cause.
What are your plans for guiding development at CAA?
One of my goals is to increase our donor base by deepening our relationships with our current donors, and reestablishing relationships with our lapsed donors—that’s a huge focus because it will bring in additional dollars. The second focus is to lead the development team to become even more effective at what we are doing: direct marketing, gift solicitation, events, and managing the annual and scholarship funds.
I think it’s a matter of staying true to our mission: Involve, inform, inspire. These are critical components to success. If we can engage the alumni and get them involved with Cal in some way, the entire university can reconnect with them. And we can’t do this alone, so I’m looking forward to meeting with our campus partners, our board, and our volunteers. Together we can serve our alumni, provide opportunities for students to come here, and build upon a strong foundation of support.