Sixty Seconds with Carly Nieri
Carly Nieri is Head of Development in the Medical Sciences Division, where she is responsible for a team of fundraisers who manage over 300 gifts each year, from charitable trusts and foundations, corporations, alumni and non-alumni. In recent years these gifts have included funding in support of major capital projects, research projects, posts, studentships and equipment.
Please can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am a lifetime fundraiser, I started when I was 21, during a college internship and have enjoyed the impact I get to make on the world by supporting work through philanthropy. I focused my career in higher education, working at the University of Texas at Austin and most recently at Arizona State University. I also grew up as an expat. My father worked for Cargill and we spent most of my childhood in South America. I greatly value the world view that this time gave me and it was important to me that I provide the same opportunity for my family.
And what attracted you to this position?
I was attracted to this position after reading time and time again of the great research that was coming out of Oxford, especially in medicine. I also saw an opportunity to come and work together with top academics to attract additional philanthropic support to further their work. As a lifetime fundraiser, my favourite fundraising happens when we connect passionate philanthropists with forward thinking academics. That is when the magic happens.
Tell us a little about your role.
My role is to lead a team of fundraisers in supporting the 16 departments and the priorities of the Division. It is also to connect individuals who want to give back to the area they are passionate about. There are times that these goals align and times that we have find a way for this to work to ensure that it is win-win for both parties. There are currently four frontline fundraisers on the team, including myself, with additional fundraisers being added to the team in the next few months; and a support team that helps us to plan events, do research, write cases for support and proposals and in general, keep the wheels running. We also recently hired a fundraiser for Medical Sciences who is based in our US office, so this is an exciting time as it is the first permanent dedicated post to MSD in the US. Even after having this person on board for just a few weeks, I can already see the difference it will make in our ability to increase activity in North America.
What’s currently at the top of your to do list?
The top of my to-do list is to raise funds for the Life & Mind Building; but there are many great projects going on within Medical Sciences that my team supports. This includes identifying individuals and building a pipeline; hosting individuals and foundations and introducing them to academics, projects and ideas; writing proposals and stewarding our donors.
How did you get to where you are today?
I started off during college as a fundraiser raising support for premature babies. It was great fun, I loved working with the donors, but even more, I loved that the work I was doing was having a profound effect on someone’s life. I mean that in two ways: of course, the patient receiving the support. But also, watching the impact that it makes on the donor's life. I cannot tell you how many times I receive a thank you note from the donor, or they come to me with tears in their eyes, when they are able to do something great in this world. Philanthropy is incredibly personal, I get to know people on a very intimate level, sometimes revealing things to me that they don’t tell their own family. The trust I am able to build with individuals, is what I love the most.
About eight years ago I had the opportunity to work on a multi-million dollar gift and realized that this was the type of fundraising that I really wanted to do for the rest of my career. Working with high net-worth individuals, which often includes their family, is extremely complex and I find great work satisfaction in crafting proposals that meet the innovative and forward thinking that comes with large gifts.
What do you like to do to relax?
As compared to the life of a physician, my job is not stressful, but there are days that are hard. To relax I enjoy cooking and spending time with my family. I moved here with my husband and our two children who are 8 and 9 years old. It has been great fun to explore England together and learn about British culture. Almost daily I write down a new phrase I heard in a meeting that I need to look up. We like to spend our weekends trying new foods, exploring the great museums both in Oxford and London, and visiting the villages that surround Oxford to get a feel for life here.
If you weren’t Head of Development, what would you like to be doing?
Running a coffee shop. The best part of my day is waking up to a great cup of coffee. When I don’t have the energy to be a fundraiser anymore, I will find my corner of the world and set up a beautiful coffee shop (of course it will serve tea as well!) and make people happy through a great cup of coffee and a place to connect with friends.