From the moment he stepped foot on IUPUI’s campus as a first-year, Fremont, Indiana native Andrew Thomas, B.A. ’18, knew that he wanted to major in philanthropic studies.
“I had volunteered and worked at nonprofits in high school, and was pretty involved with the local community foundation. The foundation’s executive director, Jennifer Danic, M.A. ‘06, is a graduate of the master’s degree program here, so she told me about the school and its programs,” Thomas said.
“I realized that I wanted a career traveling and making a difference, and once I heard about this program, I knew it was the place for me.”
So, Thomas arrived on IUPUI’s campus, ready to get involved in classes and extracurricular activities. He joined a fraternity, Delta Sigma Phi, and became heavily involved in its philanthropic activities.
“I was the philanthropy chair for two years. As part of that role, I helped start an event called Queen of the Nile, a seven-week fundraiser that raised almost $10,000 for both the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Alzheimer’s Association,” he said.
“During my junior year, I was vice president and oversaw all of the chairs we had, tracked the fraternity’s daily functions, etc. That year, another member and I led the fundraising efforts for the Queen of the Nile, and we raised $13,000 for the Alzheimer’s Association.
“All told, we raised about $26,000 in three years from all of the fundraisers, including our larger ones and ‘pop-up ones,’ like the fundraiser we had for Hurricane Harvey and the Red Cross in the middle of Taylor Courtyard one day.”
Thomas credits Genevieve Shaker, Ph.D.’s class Donor Motivation and Engagement as one that shaped his thinking and gave him new ideas on how to better fundraise.
“The topics I learned about in that class directly impacted the work I was doing for the fraternity,” he said. “I was able to take knowledge of our donors and social media and build a campaign based on the ideas we were learning. Then, I’d take the information I learned from the fundraisers we hosted and share those experiences with the class.”
Thomas also learned about the theoretical and practical sides of philanthropy in his internships. In his first one with the Steuben County Community Foundation, Thomas conducted donor and grantee interviews for stories for the foundation’s newsletter, planned the annual meeting, and completed other tasks as needed.
For his second internship, he knew he wanted to go abroad.
“I told Pamela (Clark, director of student services and admissions) that I wanted to intern abroad,” he said. “She helped me find an internship with Yuva Unstoppable that rebuilds bathrooms, water facilities, and completes other infrastructure projects in government schools in India.”
So, Thomas spent the spring semester during his junior year fundraising for the organization, and then traveled to India during the summer to work onsite: “I was able to see the impact that the organization was making on the ground, which was a great opportunity.”
With these experiences in mind, Thomas spent time during his senior capstone reflecting and thinking about what he wanted to do in the future.
“I remember sitting through an alumni panel, when one of the panelists suggested that we look at our fraternities or sororities as places of potential employment,” he said. “And I said to myself, ‘why didn’t I think of this before?’ ”
So, he sent an email to the Delta Sigma Phi headquarters in Indianapolis, where he interviewed and received a job soon afterward as a chapter support specialist.
Now, Thomas looks forward to traveling through New York, Wisconsin, California, Utah, North Carolina, and Louisiana, providing leadership workshops and other training programs for various chapters of his fraternity. He is excited to work with the chapters and to help them grow.
“They paired me with chapters that best fit with me and vice versa as well, so it’ll be a great experience to travel and to make a difference with these chapters and men,” he said.
But Thomas doesn’t plan on stopping there.
“I have my evenings free, so I want to use the knowledge I’ve gained through classes and meet with fraternity alumni in the evenings,” he added. “The fraternity has a small foundation, but has over 100,000 alumni. That’s a huge pool of potential donors who are not donating currently because they haven’t been asked or aren’t stewarded to the extent they could be because of the foundation staff’s limited capacity.
“So I’d like to meet with these alumni/potential donors and start a connection with them from which the foundation staff can learn about them and continue to foster that relationship.”
From his current connections and continuously growing knowledge about philanthropy, Thomas’s dream is to work in a leadership position in an international development organization. (“I’d love to experience the world and diverse cultures while also making a difference in people’s lives.”)
Looking back, the recent alum wouldn’t trade his experiences at IUPUI and the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy for anything.
“I love telling people that I’m a philanthropic studies major and my job will literally be helping people,” he said. “It’s been a great experience being here, and I’m looking forward to what’s next as well.”