Brad Milius, executive director of development at Cleveland Clinic, and his colleague Christina Hein, Philanthropy Institute Administrator, will visit the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy April 3-4. Milius, an alumnus of the school, recently discussed with me his background, his education, and what he’s most looking forward to about his visit.
What’s your background, and why did you decide to study philanthropy and nonprofit management?
Brad Milius (BM): During my time as an undergraduate studying business at Purdue University, I volunteered with various nonprofit organizations, including a campus ministry.
I realized that I enjoyed learning about management, but I wasn’t excited about going into the private sector. So, I decided to explore a career in the philanthropic sector, starting off with working for that same campus ministry for two years after I graduated in 2007.
That experience exposed me to a lot of different areas of nonprofit work, including volunteering management, fundraising, etc. During that time, I really gravitated toward and enjoyed the fundraising side of the job. I learned after meeting with many nonprofit professionals that I could go into fundraising as a profession, which I hadn’t realized I could do.
From those meetings, I learned very quickly about the reputation of the then-Center on Philanthropy, which made it a clear No. 1 choice for a master’s degree in order to further my education. I visited and met with several of the students, and really liked the approach that the center took. So, I decided to enroll in the dual program with the center and the School of Public and Environmental Affairs.
Can you talk about some of your experiences at the then-center, now school?
BM: As a graduate student, I had an amazing experience where I worked as a fellow for the School of Nursing through the IU Foundation while taking classes full-time. So not only was I studying what I wanted to do as a professional, but I was gaining professional experience and receiving support to pay my bills.
During that fellowship, I had the opportunity to work directly with a donor, who made a $250,000 bequest to the School of Nursing. As a result, I could include information about working with a donor on my résumé. It was great exposure during my time there.
Any classes that you particularly enjoyed or faculty members who stood out to you?
BM: Dr. Dwight Burlingame always stands out to me. He was a great mentor who really invested in me and helped me think about life and career after school. I still stay in touch with him.
In one of his classes, he had someone at the executive level in fundraising from the Mayo Clinic present on what it’s like to work in fundraising, especially in a large hospital.
That planted the seed in my head about major gift fundraising in a hospital setting early on in my graduate studies.
Otherwise, I really enjoyed Dr. Adrian Sargeant’s class on Principles and Practices of Fundraising, where I learned tangible fundraising ideas, and Dr. Richard Gunderman’s class on ethics and philanthropy and how to be mindful of ethics in future careers.
What did you do after graduation?
BM: I returned to that campus ministry where I first worked, but this time serving as their first-ever director of development. It was a really great opportunity to carve out policies, craft a development plan, and figure out how to do fundraising in a small shop. It also exposed me to a variety of fundraising practices.
I discovered quickly, though, that I really liked the major gift side of fundraising, and wanted to hone in on that. When the opportunity came to move to Cleveland, I started interviewing and found a job as a major gift officer at Cleveland Clinic through the Miller Family Heart and Vascular Institute.
What are you doing today?
BM: About 2.5 years ago, I took a promotional opportunity to manage a team. So now I manage a team of seven development officers, called the Central Fundraising Team. We don’t fundraise for a specific unit or institute; instead, we travel across the country and work with donors in support of Cleveland Clinic as a whole.
I’m learning a great deal where I am now, and trying to continually absorb as much as I can. I make sure I put myself into positions where I’m being challenged and growing. I’ve really enjoyed building and managing a team and fundraising at the same time, so it’s been a great experience.
What kinds of practical knowledge from the school did you use in the past, or utilize now?
BM: It’s vital to foster a culture of philanthropy in your organization. Laying the groundwork for philanthropy and getting your board and staff engaged helps support that culture.
Now, I try to encourage donors to form relationships with doctors, researchers, and my other fundraising colleagues at Cleveland Clinic in order to feel more connected to the hospital. Building that culture that focuses on the donor is incredibly important.*
Switching gears, you’re visiting the school in early April. What are you most looking forward to about your visit?
BM: I’m looking forward to interacting with a really committed group of students who are interested and engaged in this field. It’s always fun when you talk to members of the younger generation who have made decisions to pursue careers in this field.
We’re also looking forward into tapping into the talent pool at the school. We have a lot of opportunities to fundraise for Cleveland Clinic, and we also have a great onboarding program for new hires that we’re looking forward to discussing.
We also hope to conduct specific workshops on how to have a successful first year in your job, lessons on important interview and résumé tips, and a discussion on the ethics of hospital fundraising.
We hope that we can establish a win-win partnership with the school that will continue beyond this year as well.
Have any questions? Email Marilyn Kuhn at email@example.com
*Milius and his coworker Lisa Mann recently co-authored an article that appeared in the journal for the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), which discussed how evaluating team performance metrics has helped the Central Fundraising Team further develop a culture of philanthropy.