New philanthropy center’s director advises patience in fundraising

La Sierra's Center for Philanthropy Director, Jim Erickson.
La Sierra's Center for Philanthropy Director, Jim Erickson.

August 4, 2009
By Darla Martin Tucker

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – ( ) The current economic chaos is the most difficult financial environment fundraising expert Jim Erickson has encountered in his 46-year career. As such, he counsels nonprofit leaders to use forbearance when seeking donations from potential benefactors.

“There really is no magic bullet [to fund raising], but I encourage those I am advising to be especially patient and to be sensitive to the fact that some of our most generous donors are also experiencing financial difficulties of their own in terms of their financial portfolios,” Erickson said. He is director of La Sierra University’s new Center for Philanthropy, a venture that launched April 14 out of the university’s School of Business. “So in short, this is the time to cultivate, to build and strengthen relationships and to hesitate in making requests for funds, until the donor is ready …and is in the best position personally to contribute. In such cases, the gift will always be larger,” Erickson said.

La Sierra’s philanthropy center this September will offer a professional advancement certificate course in philanthropy for development professionals, charity executives and staff at nonprofit organizations, health care institutions, colleges and universities. The program is designed to broaden fundraising strategies, donor cultivation and acknowledgement, prospect research, grant writing and foundation and corporate giving.

The six-week course will run from Sept. 15 to Oct. 20 with classes meeting Tuesdays, 3:30 – 5 p.m. in La Sierra’s School of Business. Erickson will teach most classes and will bring in experienced fund raising professionals to assist in presenting various subjects. Class topics will include “Fundamentals of Fundraising,” “Selection of Advisory Board Members,” “Cultivation of Donors,” “Capital Campaigns,” and “Qualities of an Effective Fund Raiser.”

Registration deadline for the course is Sept. 1 and is limited to 30 students. Cost for the program is $250. To sign up, contact Vernell Kaufholtz at 951-785-2064 or e-mail Those successfully completing the course will receive a certificate from the School of Business confirming their understanding of the essential ingredients required to be an effective fund raising professional.

“It is my intention that those completing the course will be better equipped to handle fund raising assignments for their institutions, and that they will acquire a greater appreciation of donors and how they prefer and deserve to be treated as well as fund raising strategies which will result in increased support for the organizations they serve,” Erickson said.

La Sierra’s philanthropy center this fall will also extend to graduate students in the School of Business a philanthropy emphasis for Master of Business Administration degrees. La Sierra MBA students opting for a philanthropy emphasis in their degree program will focus on all aspects of fund raising and philanthropy, including many of the topics covered by the certificate course.

Erickson brings to La Sierra 46 years of university and nonprofit fund raising experience in the United States and Europe, and has been associated with the University of California for the past 25 years. In addition to his directorship of La Sierra’s philanthropy center, Erickson serves as emeritus vice chancellor for advancement for the University of California system.

He landed his first philanthropy position at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. in 1963 after working as a political reporter for United Press International, a position he entered in 1959. “My fondest memory was in covering the 1960 Republican convention in Chicago which nominated Richard Nixon and Henry Cabot Lodge,” Erickson said of his journalism days.

Since his first post at Bradley University, Erickson has been involved in fund raising for higher education. He held subsequent assignments at Indiana University, the University of California, CASE Europe and the British Council and served as consultant for many universities in the United States and England.

His fund raising background includes serving as vice chancellor for advancement at the University of California, Riverside and UC Merced. He also served as executive director of the UC Riverside Foundation between 1985 and 1999. During Erickson’s tenure, annual private sector support grew from $1.6 million to more than $27 million. Over $100 million in private support was generated with the addition of 26 endowed chairs.

The largest gift Erickson helped raise was approximately $20 million given by Riverside residents and former business partners Bart Singletary and William Austin. The funds provided endowed chairs in the humanities at UC Riverside and for the new medical school under development at the university.

Erickson is past president of The Community Foundation Serving Riverside and San Bernardino Counties based in Riverside and has headed virtually every major fund raising campaign and initiative in the Inland Empire the past 25 years. In response to calls for fund raising assistance from the mayors of San Bernardino and Riverside, Erickson spearheaded campaigns to aid victims of Southern California’s wildfires, Hurricane Katrina and the Southeast Asian tsunami. In each instance, Erickson raised more than $1 million.

As the center’s director, Erickson is offering local nonprofit organizations free assistance on fund raising strategies, donor cultivation and advisory board development and expansion. Since the center’s launch, Erickson has aided 23 nonprofits, providing counsel to their boards or executive directors. He has named the seminars the Milton Murray Seminars on Philanthropy in honor of the respected Seventh-day Adventist leader who has been a national champion for fundraising initiatives.

In 1980 Murray received the highest honor bestowed to fund raisers by the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy—the Si Seymour Award, according to a biographical account. The National Society of Fund-Raising Executives (NSFRE) named him outstanding fundraiser in 1991. He also received the Henry A. Rosso award from the University of Indiana in 1992. Murray is a 1949 graduate of La Sierra University.

The philanthropy center’s mission includes exploring initiatives and issues in philanthropy and fund raising which might be helpful to Inland Empire charities; coordinating internship opportunities for students; and offering lectures by prominent major donors and national foundation and corporate executives responsible for their organization’s philanthropic outreach. The center will also share research and trends in fund raising and philanthropy.

“We’re trying to establish a culture of philanthropy in the region,” Erickson said. “This is such a tough time economically, but in the tough times the ones who are suffering the most are the disadvantaged.”


PR Contact: Larry Becker
Executive Director of University Relations
La Sierra University
Riverside, California
951.785.2460 (voice)

  • Last update on  December 07, 2009