Widgets Magazine

Medical School’s new V.P. talks fundraising

Laurel Price Jones became the associate vice president for medical development and alumni affairs for the Stanford School of Medicine on Jan. 1. Prior to coming to Stanford, Price Jones served as the vice president for development and alumni affairs at George Washington University. She has worked in the development offices at Rochester Institute of Technology, the University Hospital of Cleveland and Oberlin College.

Stanford Daily (SD): What are the differences between fundraising for general purposes versus fundraising for a medical school?

Laurel Price Jones (LPJ): You’re never really raising money just for general purposes. But medicine does have a unique appeal because there’s hardly anyone in the world who isn’t affected by health care issues . . . Pretty much, the vast majority of people think that medicine is important. Hence all the attention on health care. That makes fundraising for medicine an especially satisfying thing to do because a wide variety of people are interested in supporting it for a wide variety of reasons. It’s a straightforward appeal to people’s interests.

SD: What are the actual funding sources for the Stanford School of Medicine?

LPJ: Well, pretty much the same as they are for the rest of the University. Individuals are by far a large source for any institution, and usually we include in that foundations because foundations are usually set up by individuals . . . There are also corporations, but the vast majority of support comes from individuals.

SD: How is fundraising different now than it was five years ago, with the economic downturn?

LPJ: I think there are some signs that things are turning up. We’re certainly ahead of where we were last year. It looks like it’s going to be a good year. I think the worst — in fundraising terms — period was last spring. So, I don’t want to be too predictive because you never know what is going to happen, but I think people are more confident.

SD: What are the main challenges in raising funds for the School of Medicine and other institutions that you have been a part of in the past?

LPJ: There aren’t any. [laughs] You just have to go to work. I don’t know Stanford well enough to say whether there are particular challenges here, but in general there are always people who are philanthropic, who want to do something beyond what they can do themselves. I mean that’s the whole point of making a big gift. The main challenge is to learn from people what their interests are and whether they lend themselves to philanthropic support and then find a good match at the institution. If you can do that, then you have a robust fundraising program. You don’t have to do that with every individual you meet, just with whom it’s important.

SD: In your fund raising efforts, are individual donors able to donate to specific programs versus a multi-purpose fund?

LPJ: Of course. That’s the reason they give. Sometimes people will make loyalty gifts and say, “Use it wherever you want,” but the big gifts that transform an institution — and Stanford has had many of those over the years, which is why it is such an outstanding university — are to endow specific programs. I think if there is anything that has changed in the last 10 years or more are people are more and more interested in being more involved in their own giving. People are more directive now than they were 10 or 15 years ago.