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Matt Kupec


Matt Kupec:  Another Hallmark Moment

Matt Kupec: Another Hallmark Moment

by Matt Kupec

December 27, 2019

I have had another Hallmark moment!

What, you might ask, is a Hallmark moment?

Well, I must confess that I have grown a fondness for Hallmark channel movies.  The channel which has the same sappy story line for every one of its movies – big city executive finds himself/herself in a very small community with an appealing charm that eventually will draw them away from the big city into the small town forever.

The charm of the small town is both the physical beauty of the town and the surroundings, and of the goodness of the people.

My first Hallmark moment came some forty years ago when I was introduced to Chapel Hill, NC when I attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  Known widely as the quintessential college town with a population under 50,000, Chapel Hill had an appeal that endured well beyond my undergraduate days. I returned to Chapel Hill to lead the UNC fundraising program for over twenty years

A year ago, I started with the Southern Illinois University Foundation in Carbondale, Illinois as the in-house fundraising consultant to lead the fundraising program.  SIU was just one year away from completing a $75 million fundraising campaign but with great success has now announced a campaign extension with a new $200 million goal.

For me, Carbondale has become my second Hallmark moment.

What is special about Carbondale?

Small Town.  Carbondale is a small town with a population of 25,902 residents.  It is located in the very southern part of Illinois, some 300 miles away from Chicago to the far north.  The downtown is small but charming.  Carbondale is a bustling community of unusual shops, diverse commerce, cultural activities, and many other luxuries that would be expected in a large city, yet it maintains the comforts and charm of a small town. The city is the most populous in Southern Illinois outside the St Louis Metro-East region.

The Region.  By the time of the American Civil War, Carbondale had developed as a regional center for transportation and business, surrounded by agricultural development.  This part of Illinois was known as “Little Egypt”” because of the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, where the town of Cairo is located.  There are an abundance of lakes and parks in the area and the Shawnee National Forest is one America’s great treasures.

A recent highlight for the region was that Carbondale fell smack in the middle of the total solar eclipse on August 21, 2017.   The Carbondale area will be the path of the totality of the solar eclipse of April 8, 2024, making it only a handful of cities within the direct paths of both eclipses.

Beautiful Campus.  My first stop in Carbondale was to visit the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus.  What a beautiful campus!  It reminded me of the beautiful campus at UNC-Chapel Hill.  Truly one of the prettiest campuses I have seen.  The SIU campus has 1,133 acres of trees and grass and a natural hardwood forest right on the campus.  It even has a beautiful lake on campus.  SIU is the first University in Illinois to earn Level II Arboretum Accreditation.

Friendly People.  I have found the people in Carbondale to be very friendly and welcoming.  I had heard for years about how nice people from the Midwest were but I had never spent much time in the Midwest.  I have found the people to be very nice and friendly.  There is a spirit here that permeates the entire region – a grit, a determination, and a sense of pride.

Moving Forward.  The Southern Illinois region, long dependent on the coal industry, is experiencing a transformation as it builds tourism, healthcare, and higher education sectors for the region and beyond.  SIU Carbondale will serve as an economic engine in this great transformation.  Combining that with the sheer beauty of the land and of its quality of its people give me great hope that some really wonderful days are ahead for Southern Illinois.

Maybe someday Hallmark will make Carbondale the feature of one its movies.  For me, that Hallmark moment has already arrived.

About the Author

Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with 32 years of significant higher education development experience. He has directed four major university fundraising campaigns and nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership. He has led the fundraising programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and HelpMeSee, a New York City based non-profit. He is currently serving as Senior In-House Fundraising Counsel for Southern Illinois University-Carbondale, leading SIU’s recently extended campaign with an increased goal from $75 million to $200 million.

Matt is a former record-breaking four year starting quarterback for the UNC Tar Heels. During his career he set 19 season and career passing records. Two of which still stand — most consecutive games with a TD pass and most wins as a starting QB. Matt also set the ACC record for TD passes his senior year at UNC. Matt was named MVP of the 1977 Liberty Bowl and the 1979 Gator Bowl becoming the 1st player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to be named MVP of two bowl games.

Matt Kupec:  Working With Fundraising Campaign Volunteers Leaders

Matt Kupec: Working With Fundraising Campaign Volunteers Leaders

by Matt Kupec

October 30, 2019

It seems like every non-profit and educational institution is in the midst of a major fundraising campaign!  Campaigns are so frequently launched that it now feels like it is more the norm to be in a campaign than not to be in a campaign.

I have had the chance to lead four major fundraising campaigns:

  • “The Campaign for Hofstra University,” a $30 million effort that was Hofstra University’s first-ever comprehensive campaign.  That initiative raised $32 million in total.
  • “The Bicentennial Campaign” at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, a $320 million effort that was launched on the celebration of UNC’s 200th That campaign raised $440 million in total.
  • “The Carolina First Campaign,” a $1.8 billion campaign launched by UNC-Chapel Hill. This effort wound up totaling $2.38 billion in commitments, at the time the 5th largest campaign by a University in U.S. history.
  • “Forever SIU Campaign,” a $75 million effort launched by Southern Illinois University Carbondale. This effort is nearing the $90 million mark in commitments as the campaign marches on.

Having run four major fundraising campaigns, I know the important role that volunteer leadership can play in the subsequent success or failure of these important fundraising initiatives.  In this blog post, I share my thoughts about successfully working with volunteer leaders in a campaign:

Recruiting Volunteer Campaign Leaders.  Finding the right mix of individuals to serve as volunteer leaders of your campaign is one of the most important decisions an organization can make.  I’ve had the privilege of working with some giants like Hugh McColl, Billy Armfield, Paul Fulton, Charlie Shaffer, Mike Overlock, Barbara Hyde and Mary Ann Dickson in the two UNC campaigns.  SIU has a star in Dan Korte and if the campaign gets extended additional great leaders will join the SIU effort.

But what do you look for when recruiting campaign chair(s)?  Do you need just one chair?  Maybe co-chairs? How about multiple chairs?  There are number of factors you should consider when recruiting volunteer leaders.  How passionate are the individuals about your organization?  Are they major donors?  If not, does that matter?  Are they connected?  Do other volunteers respect them?  What about the proper balance of your leadership group in terms of gender, race, and age?

These are all important questions to ask when recruiting leadership for the campaign.  Remember, you will be working very closely with these individuals for the duration of the campaign so it is important that you select the right people to lead your campaign.

Roles and Responsibilities for Campaign Leaders.  A volunteer leader “job description” should be written.  It is really important to have a clear understanding of the expectations for the role the campaign chairs should play as you plan, launch and execute the campaign plan.  Here is an example of a campaign chair “job description:”

Overview – Campaign Chair Job Description

Provide advice and counsel to professional staff and participate in raising funds to meet the established campaign goals


  • Commitment to the vision, mission, and goals of your organization.
  • Willingness to make a campaign contribution.
  • Willingness to solicit others

 Primary Roles and Responsibilities

  • Serve as the champion for the campaign.
  • Provide input into development of the school/unit campaign committee strategy and goals.
  • Work with President and fundraising leadership to engage in the execution of all aspects of the fundraising campaign, including marketing efforts, personal solicitation, and the acknowledgement process.
  • Participate in various campaign-related events.
  • Help to identify new prospects and potential funders.
  • Celebrate team and campaign success.

 Other Commitments

  • Lead the national campaign committee meetings.
  • Allocation of time – approximately 4-6 hours per month – to meet with or contact donors or prospects.
  • Costs associated with participating in fundraising events will be the responsibility of the volunteer committee member.

Working with Campaign Leaders During a Campaign.  Effective communication with the campaign chairs during a campaign is a must! It is so important for you to keep the leaders aware of successes and important and emerging details of the campaign are critical in making sure the chairs are playing an active role in the life of the campaign.

I recommend regular briefing types of meetings, maybe monthly, but at least, quarterly.  Create campaign summary reports to share with the chairs on a regular basis.  Have strategy review sessions.  Engage the President of your organization in some of these discussions.  But, regularly communicate and keep the chairs informed.  It takes a concerted effort on your part but it will be worth the effort.  Great chairs will play a huge role in the overall success of your campaign so keep them engaged and aware of campaign developments throughout the entire initiative.

The Worst Leadership Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

The Worst Leadership Mistakes (and How to Avoid Them)

Leadership is, at times, a double-edged sword; it can be incredibly fulfilling when those you oversee succeed and reach their development goals, but it can also be frustrating and stressful as you work to make the former a reality.

To make the process easier — especially if you are a brand new leader — here are a few common, yet critical leadership mistakes. By identifying and avoiding these mistakes in advance, you should be able to acclimate yourself more seamlessly.

Forgoing one end of the spectrum

Generally, leadership style to a broad range of approaches, with micromanaging and complete hands-off ideology serving as this spectrum’s endpoints. Each direct report will typically require a unique leadership approach, but a common pitfall is to completely avoid one end of the spectrum out of fear of being either negligent or totalitarian. If you find yourself in this predicament, rest assured, it is okay to blend elements of the hands-off and micromanagement approaches — the key is to make sure you are doing so in a way that is constructive and nontoxic.

For example, if you have been mostly hands-off with a new report, but he or she is proving to struggle with calendar organization, it may be time to switch to a predominantly micromanagement style. However, make sure you put constructive parameters on this approach; tell your report that it will be temporary until he or she has found their feet and can move forward autonomously, and gradually shift more responsibility onto their plates until this next step is possible.

Not being transparent

Obviously warranted, but consistently overlooked, transparency is arguably the most important aspect of successful leadership. New leaders often fall into a trap of being too empathetic or too aggressive, assuming that either extreme will help establish their credibility as a superior figure. That said, both of these buckets are harmful to the aforementioned equilibrium you should be striving to achieve.

Author Kim Scott refers to this leadership middle ground as “radical candor,” a healthy medium between “ruinous empathy,” “manipulative insincerity,” and “obnoxious aggression;” and all of this boils down to a simple but effective rule of thumb: be direct, within reason.  

If, for instance, one of your reports loses a client because they failed to set up a phone call, you must address the severity of the situation while establishing solutions and preventative learning opportunities. If you simply dwell on the issue without a plan for rectification, you will quickly harm your credibility by coming off as a pessimist and an overt aggressor. That said, you will just as easily reach this same outcome if you gloss over the issue — except, in this case, you will be relegated to a pushover figure.


Highly successful leader in securing philanthropy and private equity

Matt Kupec:

  • Fundraising professional with 30+ years of senior management experience at major organizations
  • Significant track record of increasing philanthropic support
  • Built best-in-class, nationally recognized operations
  • Nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership

Who is Matt Kupec?

Matt Kupec has led major fundraising operations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University (Hempstead, NY), the Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute (Tampa, FL) and NY-based non-profit HelpMeSee.

The key to Matt’s success in leading the teams of these very major and complex organizations is that he fully understands the importance of collaboration and collegiately in building a team fundraising approach in an organization.

During his tenure leading the fundraising teams at these important organizations, Matt Kupec has managed thousands of team and staff members.  Leadership is about getting the individuals to join together under a shared vision, with a common set of goals and objectives, creating an office environment of collegiately and collaboration, and pushing all to reach new heights.  This has been the trademark of Matt’s successful leadership.

The creation of the “total team fundraising approach” has manifested itself in the record breaking results that have been recorded.  At UNC, cash flow grew from $62M to $300M during Matt Kupec’s tenure. UNC was the recipient of 12 Council for the Support & Advancement of Education (CASE) Outstanding Fundraising Performance awards, the most received of any University during that time.  At Moffitt, fundraising skyrocketed from $13 million to $37 million in one year, a remarkable 250% increase in just the first twelve months!

Matt has always been a leader throughout his life.  Born and raised in Syosset, NY on Long Island as the middle child of seven children of Bill and Helen Kupec, Matt, enjoyed a prolific high school career as an outstanding student-athlete.  A three sport star – football, basketball and baseball – Matt Kupec earned many honors and awards including prep All-American in football where he led his Syosset HS football squad to an undefeated season and #1 ranking as the top High School team in the entire New York state.

With many full scholarship offers to choose from following his successful football career, Matt chose to accept a full scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill because of its high academic standing and strong football program.  

At UNC, Matt Kupecwas the starting quarterback for four years and led the Tar Heels to bowl games in three of the four seasons.   He was named Most Valuable Player in the Liberty and Gator Bowls.

Matt set 19 season and career passing records while a UNC quarterback.  In fact, two of those records – most consecutive games throwing a touchdown pass and most wins as a starting quarterback – remain standing nearly 40 years after his playing career.  Matt Kupec earned a reputation for being a “winner” during his UNC career.

All of these experiences – large family, three-sport athlete who was the pitcher in baseball, the point guard in basketball and the quarterback in football – have contributed to Matt’s passion for building the team approach to fundraising.  One of Matt’s favorite expressions deals with leadership and the importance of building team, “if you want to go fast, go alone. But if you want to go far, we must go together.”

Those words have inspired and motivated countless number of staff members who have worked for Matt Kupec and helped to bring the results that have positively impacted the lives of thousands of students, faculty and patients across this country to work for a better society.

Check out Matt Kupec’s latest post!

Matt Kupec:  Another Hallmark Moment

Matt Kupec: Another Hallmark Moment

by Matt Kupec December 27, 2019 I have had another Hallmark moment! What, you might ask, is a Hallmark moment? Well, I must confess that I have grown a fondness for Hallmark channel movies.  The channel which has the same sappy story line for every one of its movies –...