Nov. 6, 2008
Jim Senter Associate Athletics Director of Development- University of Colorado
Jim Senter is in his third year as the Associate Director of Athletics for Development at University of Colorado. Prior to becoming an Associate Director of Athletics, he was at San Diego State University and University of Idaho. Before working in college athletics development, Jim was a football coach.
Number of years in your current position?
2.5 years at Colorado
Why/when did you decide to pursue a career in intercollegiate athletics?
I wanted to make a change because of personal reasons. My coaching career was very rewarding but difficult on my marriage.
What was your path to working in athletics development?
I look at the fundraising business much like recruiting college athletes: you have to identify who you want to recruit (Identifying Donor Prospects) then you must put the work in to recruit (In fundraising we call this cultivation, but the essence of the work is the same), then at some time during the recruiting process, when you feel you have earned the right to ask a student athlete if he/she is going to come to your school (this is the ask pure and simple - probably the most hard time during the process for coaches and fundraisers!) last but not least is the part when that kids comes to your campus and you have to coach them up, hopefully after a year of school they still believe they made the right decision to go there (this is what we call stewardship in our business) have we done a good enough job to have our donors reenlist for another year buy giving another gift, or even increasing their giving.
In your mind, who in this industry can serve as a good role model?
How has your involvement with NAADD influenced your career?
There are lots of people and I would encourage folks to look at what is being done at non-BCS type institutions and their staff members. There is a lot of great development work being done at the various levels of competition. Big fundraising numbers do not always connote that "their better" at fundraising.
In my early days in this business we had the "Rookie Camps" and NAADD meetings in Las Vegas. I was amazed to hear the numbers and how other professionals were doing this business. Guys like Pat Ogle, Bobby Purcell, Lu Merritt were all way ahead of the curve. Most impressive was the passion that they exuded and the graciousness with which they interacted with young professionals like myself.
What is the most important trait to possess for young professionals in athletics development?
Having a servant's attitude and a sincere appreciation for every gift and donor regardless of the size of the gift.
What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
Never compromise your integrity for short term gain.
What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the field of intercollegiate athletics development?
Work for free! Just kidding, kinda. Anyone can get involved in the development profession by being a volunteer. You will find out real quick if you have a servants heart, the ability to pick up the phone and call people and ask for money. Ultimately some folks cannot get over that one hurdle.
Will you please explain a professional failure/mistake and how you learned from it?
My first special event I was "conned" into doing a bicycle fundraiser. I was the only one who showed up! Not even my two volunteers who said that this was a can't miss "activity" to raise money for the cause. I didn't know what I was doing and have learned to really do my due diligence before taking off on some wild hair. I did feel pretty foolish at the place we were supposed to start from eating 25 pizzas by yourself is tough!
How do you adjust your strategies in a pro sports market?
Good development work is the same and consistent. The pro sports market just means that individuals entertainment dollars are watered down. We are in the philanthropy business. I have never seen big gifts given to professional sports franchises. Donors will make significant and transformational gifts to causes they believe in and are passionate about. College athletics is one of those areas for many folks.
What is the best example of great stewardship that you have witnessed at your institution?
We are working hard to recognize gifts in a more timely and frequent manner. I have to be honest and tell you this is one of our number one priorities for the upcoming year.
What percentage of your work-week is spent in your office?
40 to 50 percent
How do you maintain balance between your professional and personal life?
This is one of my most difficult challenges. I love what I do and am passionate about fundraising for the student athlete experience. Because of this, work doesn't feel like work to me. I am trying to be more disciplined with my morning workouts and stay committed to my quiet time with my wife.
In your opinion, where is collegiate athletics development headed in the future?
I believe there will be a continued emphasis on professionalism and the education of professionals who aspire to join this great work. The upside for our line of business is incredible, it transcends stadium sizes or number of seats, it is not limited to advertising inventory or alumni. We need more great people to carry out this important work.
What are you most looking forward to at the upcoming Convention in Orlando?
I have never gone to the convention and not taken away some good ideas that I can implement in our program or for myself personally. It is a great place to get a reminder: I am doing some good things and I need to get back to doing that!