Who she is: Assistant Vice President for the Fordham Fund, Office of Development and University Relations.
Sydney Plant, assistant vice president for the Fordham Fund.
Photo by Tom Stoelker
What she does: Plant oversees the Fordham Fund, the function of which is raising more than $10 million annually. With an increased demand for financial aid, the Fund will ask loyal donors to give a second gift this year so students can meet their goals. Last October the Fund launched the Ram Line, a telephone bank staffed part-time by 45 students who make one-on-one contact with the Fordham community each night.
Background: Raised in the college town of Ann Arbor, Mich., Plant received her bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University. She was accepted into the Nonprofit Management Program at The New School in New York, but was unable to muster enough financial aid to attend. Her personal experience made her uniquely qualified to make the case for student need. She convinced the development office at her alma mater to hire her as their first intern. That position led to a full-time position and eventually to a role at DePaul University in Chicago as manager of the annual giving fund. She came to work at Fordham in 2011.
Why Everyone Should Give: “It seems a little counterintuitive, but if the Fordham Fund is to work we really need support from every constituency, including the faculty and staff. Annual fund giving is like voting: it takes everyone to participate to be ‘heard’ in order to make a difference.”
What Makes Her Job Hard: Plant acknowledges that members of the Fordham community have thousands of organizations to choose from when donating to a cause, so her primary challenge is to make the case that Fordham students have needs too.
What Makes Her Job Easy: “People tend to give where they’re served and Fordham has made a difference in a lot of lives. It’s very easy to ask alumni and friends to donate, because there is such a sense of tradition here. Another thing that helps is that whatever your cause, you can find it within Fordham—whether its the environment or the humanities, you can tap into it here.
“It’s not how much you give, it’s that you participate. We say thank you for $5 or $5,000, we just need people to participate.”
What She Hopes to Accomplish in Five Years: Plant hopes to foster a “culture of philanthropy” by encouraging meaningful involvement in the Fordham Fund. She encourages donors to share their stories, particularly on social networks like Facebook or Twitter. She is also excited about a new women’s philanthropy program that will honor and recognize the contributions from Fordham women, including graduates from Marymount and Thomas More colleges.
Her Downtime: While she says she loved living in Chicago, she’s beginning to get her bearings in New York by pursuing personal passions, such as fashion. She takes design courses at Parsons The New School for Design and spends her spare time ferreting through fabric bolts in the Fashion District. “Fordham is my school and New York is my playground,” she said.