Firm assists with College’s recent search
Across the nation, colleges and universities are working to address the financial losses that they faced as a result of the recession. The situation is no different on the Hill, where President William “Bro” Adams recently appointed Deborah Dutton as the vice president of development and alumni relations. Dutton, whose function is to assist with the College’s fundraising goals, took on this job at a particularly challenging time: the economic downturn hurt both the Colby Fund—annual contributions from alumni, parents and students spent in the year they are received—and the College’s endowment.
However, in the midst of tackling these financial issues, the College recently spent an estimated $50,000 to $85,000 to hire a consulting firm to help fill the vice president of development opening. Although the College completed a national search for this position, Adams ultimately appointed Dutton internally. Dutton had served as the interim vice president for college relations since the summer of 2010, after former Vice President for College Relations Richard Ammons left the Hill to serve as the Associate Dean for Development and Alumni Relations at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Adams announced Dutton’s new appointment on February 14. Dutton was appointed about five months after an employee from the consulting firm first visited campus to help with the search, Vice President and Secretary of the Corporation Sally Baker said.
Adams said that hiring a consulting firm to assist with the search is a common procedure on the Hill. “In my time at Colby, the College has conducted five national searches for vice presidents, and all of these searches employed search firms,” he said. “The use of search consultants for jobs at this level at our kinds of institutions is absolutely standard practice. Indeed, it is the only way to assure the best possible pool of applicants.”
An anonymous alum who works at an executive search firm whose clients are non-profit organizations said, “When it comes to a search firm’s professional fee, the industry standard is one-third of the hired candidate’s first year base salary, plus bonus. There are obviously direct and indirect costs on top of that.” However, the alum said, “It’s difficult to estimate exactly how much Colby spent because there are a number of contributing factors to the total cost.”
According to the College’s annual report, Ammons, who started working as the vice president of college relations in 2003, earned a salary of $256,313 during the 2008 tax year. If the College really spent almost one-third of the candidate’s first year base salary on the search, they would have likely spent anywhere from $50,000 to $85,000, given that Ammons would have likely earned less than $256,313 in his first year of employment. Adams said that he was “unable to comment on the current salary of any College employee” or “discuss specific fees that [the College] pay[s] to consultants.” However, Adams added, “You know from speaking with an executive search firm what standard fees are in that industry.”
The vice president of development and alumni relations plays several important roles on the Hill. “Philanthropy is obviously the primary function [of the position],” Dutton said, citing the Colby Fund, the senior pledge, gifts for endowment and facilities and corporate and foundation gifts as “sources of philanthropy.” Dutton also works to connect with alumni in order to encourage their financial participation and foster their engagement in the College. “When the economy went down, people [felt] like they [had] to make tough choices,” she said. Now, Dutton is “trying to message that any size gift is important,” in order to increase participation levels, and said that past sophisticated marketing approaches were “not getting the results we want.”
Dutton said she also worked with Adams, the trustees and all of the faculty and staff on the Hill while serving as the campaign director during the recent Reaching the World campaign, which raised $375,886,268, exceeding its $370 million goal. “My job was to make sure that we had the processes in place and working well to ensure that we would meet the goal,” she said. “It meant that when I first came, I led the team in developing new processes and setting new performance measurements.”
Baker said that after Ammons left and his position became vacant, the College was also in the process of searching for a new dean of admissions and financial aid. Adams decided to appoint Dutton—who was then serving as the College’s associate vice president for college relations—to the position of interim vice president after consulting with trustees, given that each search “take[s] a lot of time,” Baker said. “Running two of those searches at the same time would have made it impossible for Bro to do anything else,” Baker said. Baker explained that during the search process, Adams works closely with consultants, chairs the screening committee and makes phone calls to follow up on candidates’ references. “Since we had someone who was strong and had been here for four years, Bro knew he would be comfortable having her in the interim role,” she said.
Once the College was ready to appoint a new vice president of development, Adams chaired a search committee comprised of a variety of representatives from the College. The four faculty members on the committee included Professor of Anthropology Catherine Besteman, Associate Professor of Chemistry Jeffrey Katz, The Goldfarb Family Distinguished Professor of American Government and Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Calvin Mackenzie and Associate Professor and Chair of the Music Department Jonathan Hallstrom. The other members of the committee included Baker, Vice President for Administration and Treasurer and Professor of Administrative Science Doug Terp, trustees Ann Marie Connolly and Joe Boulos and Chair of the Alumni Council Executive Committee and President of the Alumni Association Jess Stanton.
Lucy Leske, a principal at the consulting firm Witt-Kieffer, served as the search consultant for the project. “In the case of a vice president position, you normally will invite one of these firms to participate because they have nationwide outreach,” Baker said. In the case of Dutton specifically, “[It was] clear [that] we really had a good internal candidate, but it really helps internal candidates [to] go through that process, [it’s] very validating,” Baker said.
The anonymous alum echoed Baker’s views, saying that “using a search firm is money well spent. Even though Colby hired the internal candidate, a national search is absolutely necessary in order to legitimize the process and ensure that she is in fact the best candidate for the job. This hire will be crucial to Colby’s future and [is] therefore essential in ensuring that [students’] eventual degree[s] will empower [them] as [they] enter the workforce.”
Leske said that the College first approached her last summer to write a review of the office—which she said was “a description of the team and what the next objectives for the college relations were for the next three to five years”—as well as a description of the vice president position. Leske had worked with the College in the past when her firm “did the search that brought Richard Ammons to Colby,” she said.
Five months before the College appointed Dutton to the position, Leske came to the Hill and met with the screening committee. When the screening committee held its first meeting in early October, “the group gave Lucy and Bro their thoughts on the position description, which was edited to reflect those thoughts and then posted on the Witt-Kieffer site,” Baker said. “In this case, as usually when a vice president is hired, the president makes the final decision after receiving counsel from the screening committee.”
Working with consultants during the search process benefits the College in several ways, Baker said. Consultants “reach out to people who might not even be looking [for a specific position],” and utilize their networking capabilities, she said. Since “no one [at the College] might have that time to spend on that kind of search, or any kind of search,” the College hires consultants “to get the benefit of their wisdom and time.”
Leske has assisted with development searches at colleges and universities across the country. “All searches are different,” she said. “The success of the search is related to the people involved. Bro is a wonderful president and has a great reputation and the College does, too…it’s easy to get people to call us back, [as] the College has a lot of visibility.” Leske said that the College’s “very successful fundraising program” means that “it’s fairly well known in the advancement fields,” Leske said. “Some colleges are building programs and doing campaigns for the first time. Colby’s been at it for a long time, so people knew about it.”
During this particular search process, “at one point there were a couple dozen [candidates],” in the running for the position, Adams said. Adams said that the College ultimately invited Dutton and one other candidate, Scott Rosevear, to the Hill for an on campus interview.
As of February 21, Rosevear is the vice president for development and alumni relations at Bucknell University. Rosevear “has extensive campaign and development experience and led the division during a previous transition, has been with [the Department of Alumni Relations] since 1999. He served as associate vice president for the division from 2006 to 2010, when he was named interim vice president,” according to a press release posted on the Bucknell website on February 21.
“During his time as associate and interim vice president, Rosevear ‘has helped lead the fundraising team to the three strongest fundraising years in Bucknell's history, developed effective partnerships with colleagues on campus, built meaningful relationships with stakeholders across our constituency and earned the respect of leaders across the advancement field,’” Bucknell University President John Bravman said in the press release.
Bucknell Professor of Mechanical and Biomedical Engineering Jim Baish, a member of the search committee that appointed Rosevear, said that Rosevear has a “good understanding of Bucknell from his years of work here…good working relationships with people on campus…[and a] winning, congenial personality, which is important for a position like [the one he is in].”
Adams said that Dutton “has terrific skills in all of the areas that we were thinking about.” Dutton is also “a great fundraiser, [has] tremendous energy [and is] a very hard worker,” according to Adams. He said that she also possesses “great experience” and the ability to “[relate] very well to people.” However, Adams said, “It was a national search and we had some other very good candidates.”
Despite the national search process, some administrators on the Hill believe that the College ultimately made the right decision in appointing one of its own employees to the position. “I hope that everybody is pleased with the result,” Leske said. “I think they ended up with a fabulous candidate and guess what: she was already there.”