June 2022

Meet Genevieve Shaker

Genevieve Shaker, Ph.D., is an associate professor of philanthropic studies at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. She was an advancement officer for 20 years, most recently as an associate dean for development and external affairs for the IUPUI School of Liberal Arts, where she facilitated communications and marketing, alumni programming, and public events as well as fundraising, overseeing the school’s $20 million-dollar contribution to an overall $3.9 billion university-wide campaign.

Over the last five years, her research has focused on developing and disseminating new research about fundraising and about the fundraising profession. She has conducted several studies, including two about fundraiser job tenure and turnover that have generated knowledge about fundraisers themselves. This work is in alignment with growing attention in the nonprofit scholarly community to the role that fundraisers play in giving processes. Most often, scholars and the public alike focus on donors and the amount of money given to particular nonprofits without adequate consideration of the intermediary. Professor Shaker has special interest in higher education giving and fundraising. She has conducted several studies, including a large longitudinal study of giving across 30 years and 400+ institutions as well as an examination of the philanthropic relationships of fundraisers and major donors in university settings.

In Professor Shaker’s free time, she volunteers with community organizations where she applies her knowledge and experience. She is deeply involved with the Red Cross of Greater Indianapolis, where she led the philanthropy committee and is now the incoming Board Chair.

My guiding purpose is to help individuals and organizations achieve their philanthropic potential.

Professor Shaker

Images Courtesy of Professor Genevieve Shaker

Q and A with Professor Shaker

I was a practicing fundraiser for 20 years in the higher education setting. I wanted to do everything I could to raise money for my school and turned to research to help inform my work. It wasn’t long before I learned the limits of the available research and decided that I wanted to help my peers by doing research of my own.

Although there is ample research on what motivates donors to give, there is less information about those who raise the money—fundraisers—and about the fundraiser and donor interaction. Along with a group of other researchers around the country and the globe, I am trying to change this so that we can have a more complete understanding of the processes leading into philanthropic giftmaking.

I’m lucky enough to be able to teach from my research, not just in my academic classroom, but also through The Fund Raising School, which is the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy’s executive education program. My work reaches hundreds of practitioners through this avenue. Thinking about one of my recent projects, on fundraising relationships, I have been told by international leaders in higher education advancement, as well as several university leaders how accurate and useful the learnings are for their teams.

I also see it as my role to distribute the research of others. A primary way I am doing this is through my lead-editorship of Achieving Excellence in Fundraising (5th edition, 2022), which includes 39 chapters on aspects of fundraising, with an emphasis on research-informed practice.

I love it when I see the eyes of a practitioner light up as my work—or research in general—brings new insights that they can apply in their nonprofit. 

Collaborating with students is one of my favorite parts of the research process. Students are involved in conducting the research, presenting it, and writing it up for publication.

My research wouldn’t be possible without the fundraisers and donors who have been participants in the projects. They also have given me practical advice that helped to conceptualize research projects, including knowing what it would be most helpful for me to study.  As I noted, I am especially interested in assisting the Red Cross in its work here in Indiana.

Right now I’m working on an analysis of donors’ perceptions of fundraisers. Fundraisers talk a lot about what they think it takes to be successful in raising money, but we don’t have much information from donors. I’m hoping to change that.

I am also quite interested in unrestricted fundraising and giving and have begun trying to understand what approaches are successful in encouraging donors to give large gifts with fewer strings attached—and to understand which donors are more receptive to this way of contributing. 

Many large gifts are reported in the media, and an overarching theme in my research agenda relates to what role the fundraiser—the intermediary—plays in directing how these gifts are used.

Conversation with Professor Shaker

On Friday, June 24, 2022 from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. Professor Shaker gave a virtual presentation about her work on “Contributing to Fundraising Practice through Multi-Dimensional Research.” During this discussion, Professor Shaker shared how she and others in the IU Lilly Family School of Philanthropy are building the knowledge-base about how and why people donate to charitable causes. She also discussed the professionalization of fundraising and how new knowledge about fundraisers can aid in their important work.

View the Presentation