Director of Leadership Gifts Encourages Other Alumni to Keep on Giving

Paul DiSanto, director of leadership gifts, builds strong programs for the 25th and 50th reunions.
Posted 07/13/05

During his fifth-year reunion, 1981 Wesleyan alumnus Paul DiSanto realized the importance of pledging annual gifts to the university.

“I feel the type of education Wesleyan offers is important, and can only continue with support from future generations,” he says.

DiSanto has pledged an annual gift every year since. As Wesleyan’s director of leadership gifts, DiSanto has also encouraged several thousand other alumni to give to their alma mater.

DiSanto works with a number of top donors and helps build strong programs for the two most prominent reunions each year, the 25th and 50th.

“I’m focusing on raising as much money as we can from those classes, but also on ensuring that these milestone reunions are a great experience, and bringing the alumni back, or closer, to Wesleyan,” he says.

DiSanto and Frantz Williams ’99, associate director of leadership giving, work closely with their colleagues in Major Gifts, Planned Giving, the Annual Fund and Alumni Programs to coordinate an efficient and effective reunion program. They touch on everything from the class books and class photos to class dinners, which DiSanto anticipates will lead to a big reunion class gift.

“During the reunion, many alumni take the opportunity to really think more seriously about their giving, and make their biggest gifts at this time,” DiSanto says.

Williams describes his colleague as a “walking database.”

“Paul can really connect with people on a personal level,” Williams says. “If someone mentions where he’s from, his children, cousins or dogs, Paul will remember that, and having that kind of connection makes him a very powerful fund-raiser.”

DiSanto spends a good deal of time at his 318 High Street office communicating with alumni via phone and email. Much of this involves recruiting reunion volunteers and strategizing with colleagues about issues and programs.

During his 19 years at Wesleyan, DiSanto has worked under three presidents, two acting presidents, four vice presidents for University Relations and two acting vice presidents. He started as the director of alumni programs and outreached to alumni and local clubs.

“I’ve seen a great amount of change here,” he says.

DiSanto also played a significant a role in the recently completed $281 million Wesleyan Campaign. During this five-year span, he held several positions including director of regional major gifts, director of the Wesleyan Annual Fund and director of major gifts and reunion fundraising. His job title changed to director of leadership gifts in June.

During the campaign, he traveled to cities nation-wide, most recently to New York, Boston, Washington D.C. and cities within Connecticut. During these visits, he made contact with alumni and parents, and encouraged them to be supportive of Wesleyan. 

“It was rewarding that the work I have done during my time at Wesleyan resulted in some of the major gifts to the Wesleyan Campaign,” he says.

DiSanto says the key to being successful in the fund-raising field is having common sense and the drive to work hard. He aims to listen and build trust with individuals.

Aside from fund-raising, DiSanto works out at the Freeman Athletic Center three times a week, plays golf, reads and enjoys following world and national events. 

He and his wife, Lynne, spend ample time with their sons Greg, 13, and Alex, 10. DiSanto is their baseball, basketball and soccer coach and volunteers at their schools and church.

The family also roots on the Boston Red Sox.

“I’ve been to a Red Sox game every year since ’65, and don’t plan on having the streak end,” he says. “Sure was great to see them win it all last year.”

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor