Husson Discusses Alumni Relations, Charitable Giving
Published: Sunday, February 3, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 3, 2013 23:02
At the beginning of 2012, the Office of University Advancement operated out of three very separate locations: one office on Route 9, one in St. Thomas More Hall, and one in the Alumni House on Newton campus. This February marks the one-year anniversary of the Office’s new home in the Cadigan Alumni Center on Brighton campus.
Converted from an L-shaped ’50s-style building, the Center contains a large, open, central area used as the setting for countless events geared toward alumni and parents. The new setup allows each of the 180 office employees to feel more connected to the Office’s mission of building support for the University throughout the alumni community, according to Senior Vice President for University Advancement Jim Husson.
“When we were in the space we were in on Route 9, you might be in a role in this organization that’s not on the front lines of the work that’s touching alumni,” Husson said. “You might never actually see an alum if you’re in an office on Route 9. Now if you work here and you’re in that kind of role, alumni walk in here every day, committee meetings are happening every day, so it brings everyone in the organization closer to the impact we may have on relationships alumni have with the University.”
The construction of the Cadigan Alumni Center is just one way in which Husson has watched the Office of Advancement grow during his 10 years here. He’s also seen his staff increase with the inception of the Light The World Campaign, the largest campaign in the history of Jesuit, Catholic education, and the umbrella under which all the Office’s current projects fall.
“There’s a goal around fundraising, there’s a goal around service, there’s a goal around legacy goals and providing for BC in people’s wills, and there’s a goal around participatory activities,” Husson said. “We did that because we wanted to make sure that everything we were doing in University Advancement, and any way an alum may choose to connect to the University was part of the campaign effort.”
In addition, Husson has seen the nature of his work change. In an office whose primary objective is maintaining contact with alumni who may have moved anywhere in the world, adapting to the newest forms of communication is essential. Thus, the office of University Advancement, like so many other departments at BC, has become a presence on multiple social media.
“We are fortunate to partner very effectively with Jack Dunn’s Office of News and Public Affairs, and with Ben Birnbaum’s office in marketing and communications,” Husson said. “The important thing to understand is that in terms of outbound marketing and branding of the University, Ben, Jack, and myself and our offices all share pieces of that responsibility.”
University Advancement is specifically in charge of the BC Alumni Twitter account, which informs alumni of events taking place across the country and keeps its audience up to date on notable activities or achievements of members of the alumni community.
“We’re using social media as just another arrow in our quiver around thinking about how this can help us strengthen and protect the relationships people have with the University,” Husson said.
An avid Twitter user himself, Husson employs his personal account for two main purposes: to aid in the spreading of University news and to share his thoughts and opinions on topics relevant to the fundraising profession. Before the New Year, back when the fiscal cliff was looming and Congress was in the throes of discussing possibilities for the new tax code, Husson made clear via Twitter his opposition to the potential limitation or eradication of charitable tax deductions.
“The charitable gift deduction is a time-honored tradition,” Husson said. “It’s been a part of the tax code since just four years after the tax code was established. It’s the only thing in the tax code that was designed to encourage behavior that was about doing something for somebody else … Deduction for charity is saying to you, ‘We as a country value you doing something for someone else.’”
BC joined numerous other nonprofits to form The Charitable Giving Coalition, which lobbied against tampering with the charitable deduction, even sending representatives (including Husson himself) to talk to members of Congress. Their sentiments eventually prevailed in Washington, and the charitable deduction remained untouched.
More recently, Husson tweeted a link to a New York Times article about a $350 million gift that New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg made to Johns Hopkins University, bringing the total amount of money Bloomberg has donated to Hopkins up to $1.1 billion. Despite the fact that this gift made Bloomberg “the most generous living donor to any education institute in the United States,” according to The New York Times, Husson found the most interesting part of the article to be the third paragraph, which notes that Bloomberg’s first donation to Hopkins was made the year after he graduated and amounted to $5.