My organization is investing money for me to attend this. And, they deserve my best effort now.

Posted by aleverenz on Sep 02, 2021 02:33:15 PM

We sat down with CGP Conference registrant Roger Fussa, Leadership and Planned Giving Officer with Buckingham Browne & Nichols School, to discuss the upcoming virtual conference experience. 

How did your career in charitable gift planning begin? 

My planned giving career began when I started at Buckingham Browne & Nichols, which is an independent school in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I had an interest in [planned giving] going back actually 20 years ago when I was first in the field of advancement. I worked at the Harvard Business School. I had a one-year fellowship. One thing they had me work on was the planned giving calculator. This was way back in the day, it was cutting-edge technology at that time. It was a calculator that PG Calc had developed and the Harvard Business School was embedding in its website. That was my first experience with planned giving.

I was intrigued by it because I found it to be complex in a way that I was not familiar with. There's a lot to learn. I remain interested in it… When I arrived at Buckingham Browne & Nichols in 2016, I was assigned leadership gift prospects; that was the crux of my job as well as doing reunion campaigns. Now, fast forward to 2019 as the school is thinking about going to a comprehensive campaign. The chief advancement officer approached me and asked whether I would consider having planned giving as part of my portfolio of work responsibilities. Two years ago, I took on doing planned giving for Buckingham Browne & Nichols on a part-time basis, roughly 50% of my time. 

How did you prepare for this role? 

When I was asked to take on this role, I did not have much in the way of a planned giving background. Yeah. I knew a little bit, as I mentioned. For me, what was key for being successful, particularly doing a part-time basis, was education. One of the first things I did was ask to become a member of the Planned Giving Group of New England. Soon thereafter, I signed up for the CGP Conference in New Orleans. I thought it was critical that I received as much education and meet as many colleagues as I could. And by the way, it was the best conference I've ever been to. I was talking to someone there at the time and we both agreed. I told my colleagues when I got back to the office. This is the best conference I've ever been to. And I've been to a number of them.

What advice would you give to other people attending conference for the first time? 

  1. Prepare in advance. That always helps because things move quickly. You may meet people you really enjoy speaking with, and then all of a sudden you're late for a session that is filled or close to being filled. 

  2. Think about what it is that you'd like to achieve. For me, it was to get up to a certain baseline of education, as part of the plan was to report back to my colleagues at work. Have some plans to write notes either the day of, or before you're back in the office, of what you learned and some key takeaways and things that you might be able to implement.

  3. Make a wishlist of things to look into. Inevitably, there'll be things that have been mentioned at the conference that would be wonderful for follow-up. That doesn't mean you have the time to do them at that point, but maybe keep a wishlist of things to look into. For instance, during a conference presentation at the last CGP Conference, the virtual conference, the author mentioned a book, and I wrote that down. It's not like I read it right away, but I made sure to read it because I thought it was a great suggestion.

  4. See who has RSVPed, people that you might want to meet. In my case, maybe it's someone else at another independent school that has a similar profile to Buckingham Browne & Nichols K through 12. That would be a fantastic person for me to reach out and to schedule a meeting with. 


Roger Small.jpg

What advice would you give to virtual attendees? 

The big difference with a virtual versus in person was that I didn't have to be concerned about getting to a panel discussion to get a seat. That's also a disadvantage because when you're not at a conference you don't have that dedicated attention. There's a big tendency to try to do one more thing. 

  1. 1. Block off five minutes before the session is about to begin. And unless it's really, really important just being that mindset that I'm ready to learn and listen, because if you're trying to cram in some email 20 seconds before it begins, or actually if you're late and you're just not in this, of course you'll still learn, but if you're not in this space that you would be otherwise because you're shifting gears mentally. I think we all need time to reflect. 

  2. 2. Treat it like you're going to a physical conference. Tell people you're at the conference, block it off in your schedule. Don't answer emails or phone calls if you absolutely don't have to. My organization is investing money for me to attend this. And, you know, they deserve my best effort now. 

  3. 3. Well, if you're at home as I was with two children, the family needs to know that, unless it's important, this is a meeting too. They may not hear you speaking, but it's a meeting and your door is closed for a reason and your family needs to give you the space if they can provide that. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share? 

The [CGP Conference] programming is excellent. And I just like to say, thank you to everyone who's involved in the conferences. The quality is tremendous, not just the quality of the programming, but just the presentation, the atmosphere, and the people who were there and the welcoming nature of the events. It was just great. I gained so much as a new professional. It gave me confidence as I embarked on this new phase of my career.

I'm looking forward to learning something I don't know, or don't understand the way that I think I understand it and then has immediate applicability for my work.


Topics: CGP Conference, Membership