Development Communications Director Meshes Creative Marketing Strategies with Design

Mark Bailey, director of Development Communications for University Relations, helps set the stage for fundraisers, senior staff and the president to conduct important conversations with donors.
Posted 08/07/07

Q: Mark, when did you come to Wesleyan, and why was there a need for a Development Communications director, and later a staff?

A: I came to Wesleyan in March 2005 fresh from more than 20 years based in sunny Southern California. My mission as director of Development Communications is to lead development communications strategies and projects for University Relations, based on Wesleyan’s new strategic plan and increased fundraising efforts. This includes developing and supervising ideas and information that marry message to dynamic visual presentation; and building a strategic marketing communications infrastructure to support alumni engagement initiatives. All of this to enhance Wesleyan’s relationship with alumni, parents and friends.

Q: Since Development communications is a fairly new department, can you explain its purpose?

A: Wesleyan does an impressive job of hewing close to its institutional strengths amid cultural stresses, cyclical economic swings, and the challenges of keeping up pace with expensive technological change.

Barbara-Jan Wilson, vice president of University Relations, saw the need for preparing UR for an ever more challenging role in funding the 29 percent of annual operating costs that are not covered by Wesleyan tuition and fees – the so-called Gap. This Gap is usually covered by gifts to the annual fund along with withdrawals from the university’s endowment. As costs rise, the goal for funding rises. This year, University Relations must raise funds to cover current operating costs in 2007-2008, campus renewal and the endowment.

Everything that goes into planning, shaping, and delivering information is communication. Development Communications strives for a clear, vibrant, one-to-one channel between Wesleyan and its alumni to build relationships and foster support for the university.

Q: Who else is a member of the Development Communications staff? How often do you interact and how do your jobs overlap?

A: Jenny Fields ’03 is our Development Communications coordinator. An Etherington Scholar, she is a proactive coordinator of every project in which Development Communications is engaged. Adrian Cooke, our Web administrator, came to Wesleyan from Yale to manage UR’s many Web-related areas of concern. He is a talented interface developer and advocate for Wesleyan’s alumni on the university Web site. Although we each have distinct responsibilities and skill sets, we work closely, looking for ways to optimize every idea, publication, production and process. Teamwork is critical in creative disciplines. I am happy to say we have it in Development Communications.

Q: Can you name a few recent, and up-and-coming projects you’re involved with?

A: As the facilitator of most University Relations-related communications, Development Communications is deeply engaged in planning, scheduling, developing, producing and supervising or collaborating on all communications initiatives that touch alumni. For Wesleyan’s 175th Anniversary, Development Communications worked closely with Alumni and Parents Relations to plan Wesleyan’s 175th Anniversary observance and celebrations. This included conceiving the 175th stamp created by Ryan Lee; authoring the tagline “The Art and Science of Education since 1831;” creating parts of the 175th Web site; advocating for those fabulous building banners created by Steven Jacaruso, and being part of Jen Carlstrom’s “Then and Now” Web site development. I also wrote the scripts and helped co-produce the Wesleyan Fund and Reunion & Commencement multimedia Flash applications.

In addition, we’ve worked to rebrand the Wesleyan Fund, and branded the Voices of Liberal Learning speaker, seminar and lecture series with Linda Secord. We’ve created Fast Facts, designed by Anne Marcotty, which details the costs of a Wesleyan education; created the Donor Excellence ad series in Wesleyan Magazine; developed the new Wesleyan Note Cards; co-produced the Alumni Association News pages, gift announcements, and that great “Do You Know” photo series with Bill Holder, Cynthia Rockwell and Gail Briggs; and the Planned Giving ad series with Christina Posniak.

We’re now attempting to reframe the way we update supporters about the state of fundraising at Wesleyan and recognize supporters. We are creating a new way of seeing and reporting on support for Wesleyan as an annual update.

Q: What is Development Communications relationship with alumni, and how does it differ from the other branches of University Relations?

A: Ideally, Development Communications is invisible to alumni. We strive to set the stage for others – fundraisers, senior staff, the president – to conduct the important conversations with donors. We do that by creating the communications climate, the branding, the creative positioning, and the messaging to enhance their ongoing dialogue. We answer questions and concerns before they arise.

Q: What do you find most appealing about directing the Development Communications Department?

A: Creating a Development Communications Department at Wesleyan to support rising fundraising goals, finding talented, motivated individuals who thrive on excellence, and collaborating with other professionals in University Relations, on the Board of Trustees, and the Office of Public Affairs team in South College is challenging and rewarding for all of us.

Q: During a typical day, how do you spend the majority of your time?

A: My day breaks down into a 30-40-20-10 schedule. Typically, I spend about 30 percent of my time strategic planning, concepting, writing and editing; 40 percent in meetings, follow-up correspondence and calls; and 20 percent advocating initiatives; and 10 percent problem-solving.

Q: What attracted you to Wesleyan?

A: Wesleyan has it all: a history of scholarship, passion for liberal learning, an institutional commitment to positive change, and people who care deeply about making a difference every day. It is real and I value being a part of it.

Q: What did you study in college and where did you attend?

A: I studied journalism and film as an undergraduate at Syracuse University, then earned a master’s degree in communications from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication at Syracuse. I also did graduate work at UCLA and the Master of Professional Writing Program at the University of Southern California.

Q: Where are you from and where have you lived?

A: I moved here from Los Angeles. As a creative director, writer-director, strategic marketing communications specialist, and author based there for many years, I worked in major North American markets, Australia, the U.K., Ireland, Italy, and Switzerland. I was born in northern Vermont. Shoreline Connecticut is my idea of home and working at Wesleyan is a privilege and a pleasure.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: Writing, photography, travel, history and being on the water.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor