Shelagh Murray, Director, Development and Alumni Relations Office Q&A
What were your roles prior to being Director of Development at Otago?
I was the Director of Development at the University of Canterbury for 10 years, and then Executive Director of Development and the Foundation at Victoria University of Wellington for five years. After that, I worked as fundraising consultant in Christchurch on the rebuild of the Catholic parishes and the cathedral after the earthquakes for a couple of years, which was a steep learning curve but a great experience.
What is your role in a nutshell?
As Director of Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO), I'm responsible for the alumni engagement programme at Otago and the fundraising, philanthropy and sponsorship strategy and funds raised for the University and the Otago Foundation Trust. I started in the role in 2018.
What are your goals and visions for Development at Otago?
The new strategy and business case I developed for DARO was approved by the Vice-Chancellor's Advisory Group (VCAG) in late 2018 and is based on increasing philanthropic support to the University. What we have always done really well here at Otago is engage with alumni, but we needed to look more closely at how that engagement could be turned into philanthropy – we needed to focus on developing opportunities for people and organisations to give to Otago and then work to make that happen. Engaging and connecting with alumni, friends, organisations and communities and communicating our success stories. So, my goals and visions really are to have a fantastic, high performing team, achieving our goals, which I'm very lucky to have. We're all working towards a common understanding about alumni engagement, philanthropy, and fundraising, and promoting the excellence that the University of Otago stands for.
What do you see as Otago's unique strengths?
We are the first and oldest university in New Zealand. I think that's a real point of difference and a strength. We have an excellent first-year residential college programme for students. That's unique in New Zealand and I think we have a real strength in the care that we have for our students which is fondly remembered by alumni. Another strength is the stunningly beautiful campus that we are lucky to work in, which is surrounded by this very close-knit student community. I think we are also an excellent University when it comes to teaching and research. We punch above our weight. But I think the main thing is the care and kindness we show. Pūtea Tautoko is a classic example. We were the only university in New Zealand to launch a comprehensive student hardship campaign during COVID led by the Vice-Chancellor. We've raised over $600,000 from donors to support students to date and the stories from students who have received support about the difference this has made are heart-warming.
What excites you about philanthropy?
Many thanks to Otago Access Radio for the photo
What excites me is how it can transform people's lives. The impact that philanthropy can have on a person, an area, a project or an issue is just amazing. And the satisfaction you can give a donor, when you provide them with information about the difference, the impact that their gift has made, communicating those stories, makes all the hard work worthwhile.