Adam Steinberg: Vast Experience and a Wealth of Knowledge

By December 27, 2018 News & Events

Graham-Pelton is pleased to welcome Adam Steinberg as Vice President.

When it comes to fundraising in education, Adam has seen it all and done it all.  From major gifts to the annual fund, international-focused to women’s focused, independent schools to higher ed, Adam’s career in fundraising runs the gamut and provides him with a wealth of experience to share.

Prior to joining Graham-Pelton, Adam served as Director of Major Gifts-North America at The American College of Greece, where he maintained a portfolio of major gift North American donors and prospects and coordinated U.S. Board of Trustee giving.

Previously, Adam was the Associate Director of Leadership Giving at Trinity College, managing a diverse pipeline of leadership, principal, and planned giving prospects with the capacity to make leadership gifts. In the role of Individual Gifts Officer at Smith College, Adam secured major gifts to the “Women for the World Campaign,” while also designing and implementing major gift strategies as well as parent giving and planned giving. In the independent school space, Adam has served the Williston Northampton School as Director of Annual Giving and The Hotchkiss School as Capital Gifts Officer.

Adam served as a Board member at The Longmeadow Educational Excellence Foundation and Jewish Community Center and was a Council for Advancement and Support of Education District I Presenter.

Adam recently shared his thoughts on what appeals to him in education fundraising, the intricacies of connecting with donors during a financial crisis, and why he loves a challenge.

You have an extensive background in university and independent school fundraising.  What aspects of this sector of fundraising appeal to you?

I love the impact that raising money from the alumni can have on a higher ed institution.  In the independent school sector, I enjoy working with the alumni and I really enjoy working with the parents because they are already investing in their child’s institution, but they still want to give back above and beyond the tuition.  There’s such an impact that a gift can make at either kind of institution, both for the recipient and for the donor.  And I’ve witnessed how donors can really love giving, provided they are stewarded the right way.

You’ve worked at a number of different schools (The Hotchkiss School, Smith College, Trinity College, The American College of Greece) and all have fairly different profiles.  How have you navigated each institution’s distinct personality?

Though each institution was unique, I navigated them all by similar means: I made sure I was prepared and did my homework.  I really learned about the donors.  The initial donor and prospect meetings really helped me learn why they went to that school and what made them tick.  It gave me insight into why we were meeting in the first place and that allowed me to piece together more fully what the institution was about in each case and learn its personality.

You were formerly with The American College of Greece.  Maintaining a portfolio of North American donors amidst the Greek economic crisis must have been a unique experience.  What were the challenges you encountered? 

While I was at The American College of Greece, the President charged me with focusing on Greek Americans who were alumni as well as those who did not have a relationship yet with the College.  The President was interested in encouraging a connection with this group.  That was a challenge—to not have that alumni affinity on the donor side.  I’m also not Greek so I had to build trust there.  I had to learn about Greek culture so I spent a lot of time in Athens.  I found myself having to really draw upon all of my previous fundraising experience to help build a narrative to connect with this group of potential donors I was overseeing.

The even bigger challenge with regards to the economic crisis was that American Greek donors wanted to help the nearly 45% of Athens students who could not afford to go to the College.  But, quite understandably, they wanted transparency, given the crisis.  So, we had to change some of our processes to account for this.  Overall, I really had to tailor my approach when I was working there but I loved the challenge.

You secured major gifts for Smith College’s “Women for the World Campaign.”  Was there anyone gift or moment during that campaign that stands out as monumental?

I love talking about Smith because it was fun and a huge challenge.  Being a male and representing a female institution as I tried to secure major gifts from a very strong group was really interesting for me because I had to become kind of a male feminist.  I had to be all in on women’s education and why it was important, while also connecting the donors’ personal interests to the campaign for the school.

I was their first campaign hire and the most memorable experience I had involved meeting with my number one donor.  On the first visit, she said how she would love to keep working with me and how she had a $100K gift that had not closed yet.  She challenged me to close it which involved establishing a rapport with her mother, who was an alumna.  As a development professional, I loved the challenge of this.  The challenge of fundraising always keeps it fun.  I vetted it to make sure the gift was within the right parameters of what the school was looking for and it was.  I really had to dive in and that was my education moment at Smith.  This was her “tryout” with me.  I had to earn her trust over a period of time and it led to a great connection with her.  She then helped me connect with other prominent Smith alums and she eventually made another gift of $500,000.

You have been in philanthropy for a while.  Do you think it has changed from when you began and how so?

I think technology has changed philanthropy a lot.  As the Internet has evolved, our modes of communication have become easier and the messaging and information can be delivered in a more efficient way.  The Internet has also enabled donors to access more real-time information and be completely informed as they make their philanthropic choices. That being said, what I was doing at Hotchkiss, Smith, or Trinity, none of that has really changed—it’s still all about connecting with donors, making a case for support, and helping them see the future vision for the institution.

What was it that attracted you to Graham-Pelton?

At this point in my career after having such a vast breadth of experience in development, I decided to consider consultancy.  As I was testing the waters and going through the interview process at Graham-Pelton and with other firms, one of my former colleagues had so many great things to say about Graham-Pelton and this really influenced my decision.  Over and over, I just kept getting the impression that Graham-Pelton had something different.  With each new conversation, I learned more about the culture and I knew it would be a great fit.  The interviewing experience, the people I connected with, and the core values of the firm convinced me this was the right team to join.  I’m really excited to be here and to help our clients move forward.

Contact Adam directly via e-mail or by calling 1.800.608.7955 ext. 1241

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