California State University, Fullerton

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Advancement VP Aims for 'Next Level'

Oct. 22, 2013

When Greg Saks, vice president for university advancement, first arrived on campus in January, he was impressed with the diversity, size and community impact of the University. Today, he says that not only has his first impression been validated but enhanced.

"I'm more convinced than ever that we are in a unique position to take this university to the next level," he said. "We have the ability to go from really good to extraordinary. I met with dozens of people during my first few months and they are quite bullish about the opportunities available to us."

Saks oversees fundraising on behalf of the university, as well as government relations and strategic communications.

"As I spoke with people on campus and in the community, it helped crystalize my thinking," he said. "We are the 10th largest employer in Orange County and one of the primary economic engines of the region. We prepare the workforce of tomorrow and what we do impacts the future. Our work is to partner with employers, government agencies, community leaders, individual donors, alumni, and our own faculty and staff to demonstrate that Cal State Fullerton is a great investment."

In order to achieve this goal, Saks' division is undertaking the development of a division-specific strategic plan (in alignment with the university's strategic plan). Among the goals are to expand the campus' service area into south Orange County, as well as parts of Los Angeles County and the Inland Empire.

"We need to make sure our programs and communications are planned and thoughtful," Saks said. "Our messages need to resonate with our stakeholders. That helps us leverage our resources."

The stewardship of donors is another prime area of focus. "We need to ensure that donors know how much we appreciate their gifts," he said. "Our goal is to develop relationships with donors from their first gifts to planned gifts so that they can leave a legacy."

Saks also is excited about how the University Advancement Division is positioned to support the campus.

"University Advancement has a unique role in impacting positive change on campus through gifts to fund centers and programs, help build new structures, provide student scholarships and much more," he said.

He hopes CSUF will become even more involved in Fullerton and north Orange County's economic development.

"We have a campus filled with experts," he said. "I'd like to see if we can leverage that expertise and experience and enhance CSUF's role as a good civic partner."

Many of these changes are well underway.

"We are already working closely with chambers and leadership in the city and county," Saks said. "We are working with education partners to help bridge the achievement gap, and we are focused on capacity building.

"Government relations plays a substantial role," he said. "When you think about it, the state is really our largest single donor with 55 percent of our budget coming from these funds. That said, we need to continue to reach out to donors — members of the community, elected officials, our alumni, faculty and staff and our students to educate them about the value of giving back.

"I'm proud of the staff I work with, and there is significant movement on many new projects that will bump us up to the next level. I foresee a bright future for the University, and University Advancement is well-positioned to play a significant role in that growth in the coming years."

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