Reflections on a Successful Campaign

When Berklee College Board of Trustees members John Connaughton and Mike Dreese took the lead on the Giant Steps Capital Campaign, they didn't know what to expect: It was the college's first-ever attempt to raise so much money. But both had faith that the college's plans would spark investment: a faith that has been affirmed by the campaign's success. Below, Connaughton and Dreese reflect on the experience of launching the Giant Steps campaign.

  John Connaughton
  Phil Farnsworth
  Mike Dreese

John Connaughton: Leading by Example


"Taking it on, given it was the first campaign, was both exciting and a little bit daunting. But my own view was that Berklee was an incredible institution with an incredible leader at a point of real change. It was a catalyzing moment.


"In the early days, we had a ton of momentum. We quickly changed the goal from $40 million to $50 million, which was exciting. And then the economic crisis hit, causing us to worry about having adjusted the goal. But it is a testament to the institution and its leadership that people really rallied behind the campaign and its objectives. Supporters rallied to an ambitious goal that had been ambitiously increased in the context of a crisis-and surpassed it.

"As a cochair, you lead by example, which means committing your own investment dollars-and I view this to be an investment. It was hard to choose among so many important strategic initiatives. But in the beginning of this campaign, the Berklee Global Jazz Institute was just getting off the ground. I've spent time with faculty member Danilo Pérez-he's an extremely talented artist, uniquely inspirational with students, and a great citizen of the world. What he is doing was very exciting and squarely targeted at fulfilling Berklee's mission as a leading contemporary music institution. I thought that if that's where Roger [Brown] needed support, I wanted to provide it.

"Going forward, we first need to make sure that we thank all those folks who have made this investment and make sure we realize the fruits of that labor by fulfilling the objectives of the strategic initiatives that are now enabled by the capital funding. The next piece is making sure that we focus on all these people who have been engaged and maintain their excitement. The more engaged they are, the more opportunities we will have in the future."

Mike Dreese: "A Virtuous Feedback Loop"


"By far the biggest gift I've ever given was 10 percent of my net worth to Berklee. The big factor was that Roger stepped up big time with his own gift. For a relatively new president, that was very impressive. It kind of goosed everybody else along to-I don't know if you'd say "give till you hurt"-but give certainly until you notice it. A lot of the personal asks I made were to people who were giving to the outer limits of what's possible. I thought it was great to see.


"Berklee has a large group of alumni who are just now reaching their prime earning years. Five years from now, we'll be in a great position to tap people in their mid-fifties and early sixties, who are usually the backbone of any major capital campaign. The best years are ahead. As a result of this campaign and some of the other moves that were made to enhance scholarships, you're seeing more people graduate feeling that 'somebody did something for me; maybe I should do something to give back.' There's starting to be more of a virtuous feedback loop. We're all involved in the first major effort to raise resources. So whether people gave $20 or $20,000, they should feel very good about being in this inaugural group of people.

"I think there are a lot of newer entrepreneurs who feel a lot better about giving to organizations like Berklee than they would the more traditional bastions of giving. They have a more progressive view, and Berklee represents that for sure. Many of them are not that philanthropically experienced. You have people who are biotech entrepreneurs whose only connection to Berklee is a love of music, and that's such a fabulous thing. For all of us, Berklee has a special magic.

"When you're giving money to Berklee, it's a gift to the quality of life of the world. It's not going to save too many lives in the short run. It may in the long run, as we affect the cultural temperament of the world. It's a base investment in making our culture richer. We see this as a worthy mission."