Fiterman Philanthropy

Promoting Philanthropy and Fundraising

Friday, May 12, 2017

Fundraising belongs in the same category as sales. Engaging with a potential donor to address their philanthropic needs is equivalent to pitching a product which will fulfill a prospective customer’s desires. Anyway, that’s how Mike Fiterman, ’70 BSB, sees it—and he’s in a good position to know.

Fiterman is a member of the University of Minnesota Foundation Board and during his term as chair, the Foundation raised more than $300 million each year toward a $4 billion campaign. He is also chairman and CEO of Liberty Diversified International, a now fourth-generation family business that specializes in the manufacture of corrugated shipping container components, office supplies, and building materials.

But for Fiterman and his wife, Linda, their passion is in charitable causes. They’ve worked with Children’s Hospital, United Way, various Jewish causes in the community, and other fundraising events too numerous to name. “Both Linda and I have the privilege of working with great, dedicated, and passionate fundraising people,” he says. The challenge is to keep up with the massive future demand for charitable giving.

Where is the next generation of professional fundraisers? Pondering this question gave the Fitermans an idea. “We wanted to earmark a specialty within a student’s background,” he says. “Many young students want to go into non-profit… (and) there are a few schools that have a fundraising curriculum, but Minnesota didn’t.”

As alumni of the University with a daughter who is also a Carlson MBA alumna, the Fitermans felt the Carlson School would be the best home for a fundraising program. “It was essential that fundraising development be in the business school,” he says. Fundraising is key to any organization’s sustainability. So, through the generous support of the Fitermans, a fundraising program is now a reality at the Carlson School with a new class dedicated to the topic and a new scholarship program for students majoring in nonprofit management.


Philanthropy and Professional Fundraising Strategy

The idea of adding the fundraising topic to the curriculum first came up two summers ago. Anne Cohen, senior lecturer and faculty advisor for the public and nonprofit management program, was notified that there was a donor interested in developing top-notch professional fundraisers.

When asked whether there would be an interest, she pitched the idea to her students. Their response was overwhelmingly positive. “Students were saying ‘we understand how important this function is… we see that building these relationships takes skill… we would definitely like to take this class,’” she says. So Cohen went ahead getting it developed and approved.

The class, Philanthropy and Professional Fundraising Strategy, begins this spring. The course delves into strategy from both donor and nonprofit perspectives. “It’s a seven-week class and fairly intensive,” she says. “Students are going to do a project with a real nonprofit to help it build its fundraising strategy.”

An extra perk of the program is that students will learn from professionals in the field. The Fitermans had requested that guest speakers be an integral part of the class. “We wanted (students to understand the) officers’ standpoint and what they learned during the course of their career,” Fiterman says.

Spring 2017  alumni magazine cover

This article appeared in the Spring 2017 alumni magazine

Learning doesn't just take place in the classroom anymore. In this issue, we explore how the Carlson School is thinking outside-the-box to meet the education needs of today's students.

Spring 2017 table of contents