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Q & A with Karen Boehnke ’99

Soliciting Support, Effecting Change

Karen Boehnke ’99 returned to Smith last September as the college's director of annual support and volunteer engagement in the Office of Advancement. Boehnke, who has served as an annual fund volunteer for Smith since graduating with a bachelor of arts degree in education, previously served as director of the annual fund and development operations at the University of California, Berkeley, College of Engineering. She recently spoke with The Gate about her work at Smith.

Grécourt Gate: Let's start with the basics. What is the annual fund and how is it used?

Karen Boehnke: The Smith Fund raises unrestricted support for the college from alumnae, parents, faculty, staff and friends. The Smith Fund supports varied initiatives, including financial aid, Praxis internships, and faculty salaries.

Gate: What is the busiest time of year for your office?

KB: We're busy year round. July 1 we start at zero and have to work steadily to hit our fundraising goals by June 30. The summer is spent planning for the fall, when we kick off our annual solicitation cycle. The end of the tax year, December 31, always proves an incentive for donors to make gifts. During May we celebrate the fundraising efforts of our reunion classes. And June is a race to meet our goals by the end of the fiscal year. July 1 we start all over again.

Gate: Describe a typical June weekday in your office.

KB: Calls, calls and more calls. We meet as a team at 8:45 every morning to talk about yesterday's successes and to review our overall progress. Everyone takes a stack of calls and we're off. I spend a lot of time reviewing past donor lists and working with our class managers and major gift officers to help secure gifts from alumnae with whom they have relationships.

Gate: How many volunteers do you have and what are their roles?

KB: Currently we have just about 700 volunteers for the Smith Fund. Our volunteers ask their classmates for gifts and thank them for their contributions.

Gate: What drew you to this work?

KB: Just out of Smith I had no idea what I wanted to do and ended up in an
administrative role in the development office at a non-profit. I instantly fell for the problem-solving and quick pace involved. It's been a great joy to get to do this work for the institution that has so greatly shaped my life.

Gate: Do people share the reasons they feel compelled to give to Smith? Are there any that stand out in your mind?

KB: The reasons are endless -- for some it is to show gratitude for the role Smith played in an alumna's life. For others, it is a way to ensure that Smith exists for tomorrow's students. And for still others, it is a way to help with our rankings.

Gate: Why should I give?

KB: To demonstrate your belief and confidence in an institution that positively affects the world in countless ways. I really do believe the most effective way to impart change in this world is to educate a fierce group of women to go out and make change happen. Smith does that.


6/21/07   Compiled by Kristen Cole
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