During her fundraising career, Annette Carter, the new UNLV School of Medicine senior director of development, has raised millions of dollars for nonprofits, including universities, hospitals, and health-related foundations.
At the University of Central Florida and the University of South Florida, at Florida’s Suncoast Hospice Foundation, at Northern Arizona University, and at Barnes-Jewish Hospital Foundation in St. Louis, the results were always the same: She built and managed a pipeline of hundreds of prospects and donors who contributed what they could so the missions of the institutions could be better carried out.
You won’t find her in her office much now. She’s already out making contacts, forging the kind of partnerships necessary to help develop the resources that will assist the medical school and its clinical arm, UNLV Medicine, in transforming the quality of health care in Nevada.
“Fundraising is a relationship business,” she said. “This is a wonderful challenge and it’s definitely not a one-woman show. I am a catalyst to bring interested donors together with very worthy projects and students.
“There are those who want to ensure we have the best health care providers and enough of them to meet our growing population. There are grateful patients and families who want to honor the health professionals who cared for them. There are those in the community who believe in the importance of higher education and who are paying it forward for help they themselves received. There are physician practices and health care companies which will eventually want to hire our graduates. There are foundations and others who believe in UNLV and are grateful to have our presence in Las Vegas.
"There are those who can give $50 and those who can give $50 million. Each and every one is important. I will be talking to anyone who will take an appointment with me and getting to know this community, inside and out.”
Priorities for fundraising, Carter noted, are being set internally and that process will continue when the newly named dean, Dr. Marc J. Kahn, takes over in April. “I have no doubt at all,” Carter said, “that Las Vegas will continue to rise to the occasion as it already has, evidenced by the new building that will be built by generous and caring donors, and the scholarships that have been established by others. This is a community full of generous individuals, foundations, and companies, and I’m here to help them make a difference.”
This year Carter, who acknowledges the medical school has many pressing needs, said fundraising for scholarships for students will continue to be important. “We’ll continue to raise money for scholarships because many of our Nevada students need that help, and we want them to practice in Nevada. Unrestricted dollars are also important because they give the dean and faculty the latitude to meet the most pressing needs using their good judgment.”
During her first year, Carter said she’ll also be looking at ways to make donor-named professorships, chairs, and programs possible. “Beginning to build endowed positions is extremely important because it ensures a perpetual stream of funding. Research will also be a priority as we seek out the best and brightest physician/PhD researchers. Research is a big part of what makes a great medical school.”
Carter said she also sees a need to raise funds for patient care, particularly for members of the community who have difficulty even paying to see a doctor. “When major health care issues arise, they will need our help and donors can make a great difference in this area. I’ve always felt that the worst place to be in this life is sick and poor.”
One of Carter’s goals for 2020 is to ensure that those interested in helping the UNLV School of Medicine understand the many different ways that can be done. She’ll be happy to explain, for example, stock and deferred gift options. “My goal is always to help the donor identify the amount of impact she/he wishes to have on the School of Medicine and help them to discover beneficial ways for them to make those wishes a reality.”
Often, she said, people mistakenly believe that because a school has taxpayer support, it doesn’t need philanthropy. She said that in her experience, government support only covers around 10 percent of what is necessary to make an institution truly outstanding “Without the philanthropic donations of donors at all levels, innovation is not always possible. Donors really are the reason that the impossible becomes possible.”
The Oklahoma native and mother of two grown children initially studied to be a nurse and worked as a nurse’s aide in a small-town hospital. “I loved the work, but I took each patient’s case home with me every night. I quickly realized I couldn’t handle the work emotionally. Little did I know then that there are so many things you can do with a nursing degree other than working as a bedside nurse.”
Carter went on to get a bachelor’s degree in journalism at the University of Oklahoma, and then served as communications director for the Oklahoma Public Employees Association.
Later, while working as communications director for an arts organization in St. Louis, she was asked by her boss if she’d be interested in fundraising. “I said, ‘Maybe, but I have no idea how to do it.’” After her boss promised to give her on-the-job training, she agreed. “I was able to learn on the job more than many programs teach in degree programs, and to exceed our annual fundraising goal in less time my first year.”
Shen then went on to work in major gifts for three years at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, where a fundraising campaign was underway for a cancer center. “My first seven-figure gifts, both cash and deferred gifts from grateful patients, came during this tenure. Working with grateful patients and families was my new passion, and something I love to this very day.”
After spending more than seven years living in Central America, where she started her own travel company in Costa Rica, Carter returned to the U.S. and to fundraising.
It was while working at the University of South Florida that she met Joann Strobbe, who today is the senior associate dean for administration and finance and chief financial officer for the UNLV School of Medicine. Strobbe, who was on the search committee charged with finding a fundraiser for the medical school, was pleased to learn that Carter was one of the applicants.
“Annette was a highly respected major development officer during her tenure at USF Health,” Strobbe said. “Her leadership in this area for the UNLV School of Medicine is essential for our philanthropic efforts.”
Carter, who wasted no time starting her fundraising efforts in Southern Nevada, said, “We’re laying the foundation and building the infrastructure of a best-in-class fundraising program. Las Vegas deserves that, and our students deserve that.
“We’ll be putting into place processes to ensure that our donors are thanked and stewarded as they deserve to be, and that they know how very important they are to our success. We’ll be building opportunities for our donors to get to know our students, and for our communities to experience what we do and how we do it.”