For Peter Fardy, advancing the goals of Dalhousie is about much more than asking people to open their wallets. Rather, he believes it’s his role – and that of his team in advancement office – to help alumni and other members of the Dalhousie community discover how a gift of time, talent or treasure will fulfill them. Whether it’s funding one student’s studies or enabling an addition to Dal’s facilities, such as a library or lab, Mr. Fardy is committed to giving contributors and understanding of the difference they can make and a sense of achievement when they do. “It’s our job to help them discover what they are truly capable of doing.”
As vice-president, Advancement, Mr. Fardy aims to build an effective operation that integrates sustainable fund development and robust alumni engagement. Internally, he has an “almost always” open-door policy as leader to a team of development professionals who are very focused on individual and team performance. He believes that good performance management practices are critical to individual team members, the unit as a whole and the university. He also meets with deans, AVPs and others across Dal to make sure advancement goals are aligned with those of the university. Mr. Fardy’s work also takes him off campus – elsewhere in Halifax and across the country – to build meaningful relationships with alumni and friends whose support can make a positive impact at Dal. And he always tries to keep in mind that ultimately, the goal of his work is to improve the experience of present and future generations of Dalhousie students.
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Like many young Atlantic Canadians (he’s from Newfoundland originally), Peter Fardy headed west after graduating from high school, completing a bachelor’s degree at a large southern Ontario university. There, Mr. Fardy had what he calls “a transactional experience,” meaning that he “worked hard” but “didn’t develop any lifelong relationships.”
In contrast, when he came to Dal to do his MBA, “it was a completely different story.” At Dal and other Maritime universities, Mr. Fardy says the “close-knit community” is ideal for cultivating friendships.
These lifelong connections are, in his view, one of the biggest contributing factors in a student’s post-graduation relationship with an institution. “An alumnus’ affinity is based on the community they felt part of as a student. Relationships are the anchor,” he says.
That sense of connection is part of what brought Fardy back to Dal in 2009 to take the position of assistant vice-president, advancement and chief development officer. After several years of focusing on fund development, Mr. Fardy stepped into the broader role of vice-president, Advancement.
“Advancement involves attracting support for the university, which can be done in many ways. We invite people to give of their time, talent and treasure,” he explains.
He notes the three key components to Dalhousie’s advancement strategy: “inform, involve, invest.” Generally, informing means keeping in touch with alumni to provide updates on the university. The next step is to get alumni involved – through volunteering, for example. Involvement then leads to investment. “An alum that is more engaged is more likely to give.
“’Treasure’ is the fundraising piece, but time and talent are important too, because they can advance the cause of the university. Our alumni are spread all over the world, so the more effectively we can engage them – and engage more of them –the more champions we’re going to have out there. That helps from recruitment, reputation, and fundraising standpoints and any number of other ways.”
Mr. Fardy also believes it’s critical that all Advancement units, from the fundraising team to the operations group to communications folks to alumni engagement officers, are working together toward the same goals. “In order for us to realize our full potential, we’ve got to be more integrated in what we do. It allows everyone, whatever role they play across the Advancement portfolio, to understand where they fit in the bigger picture.”
Developing relationships with alumni and other external stakeholders is a careful process that often involves several conversations to establish rapport. Mr. Fardy is focused on fostering a community of Dal supporters as he positions the university for future fundraising and alumni engagement campaigns.
“We want everyone to have a line of sight to see how they can have a positive impact,” says Mr. Fardy. “Students who otherwise wouldn’t have access to higher education can have access when financial gaps are closed. Research that otherwise might be not be undertaken can be undertaken.
“There’s a lot of good that comes out of what happens at the university, things that are good for society, our community and the economy.
“If we’re successful, more of that good can happen.”
- Was vice-president advancement at St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, from 2004 to 2009
- Has served on the United Way’s board of directors since 2010, and is past chair of the board
- Was (at different times) chair of the YMCA, Canadian Canoe Association, Halifax Dragon Boat Festival, and director of the NS Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education, and the Neptune Theatre