Trinity University officials announced Monday evening that nonprofit development executive Michael Bacon, a Class of ’89 alum, has been hired as vice president for advancement and alumni relations after a national search. With more than 25 years of experience, Bacon is highly regarded in the South Texas nonprofit and foundation worlds.
Bacon, who will start at Trinity on Aug. 10, will provide “strategic vision” to Trinity’s fundraising and alumni engagement efforts. The national search conducted over four months led to three finalists appearing before a selection committee that selected Bacon.
“Mike is a role model for Trinity alumni, he is passionate about the University, committed to alumni engagement, and he brings his creativity and professional expertise to the goal of advancing the University,” Trinity President Danny Anderson stated in a news release.
Anderson took office on June 1 and is continuing to implement the 10-year Trinity Tomorrow strategic plan that was started in 2013, the first of its kind for the private liberal arts college founded in 1869. The plan includes internal restructuring and a new curriculum, but much of the plan relies on the ability of the university to maintain and expand its fundraising efforts by further engaging its deep well of alumni and other community connections to “build the infrastructure to support the needs of the 21st century university.”
Anderson will soon be going on a tour of Trinity alum chapters throughout the U.S. to galvanize its vast network. More than 20 cities have chapters including Austin, Dallas, Atlanta, Denver, New York, Portland, Seattle.
“We understand that Trinity alumni want to be involved with the university throughout the course of their life,” Anderson said Tuesday. “(College) provides an intellectual engagement and liveliness that is often lost after students settle into their careers and after their kids have grown. … They want more.”
Bacon’s connections to Trinity as an alum and as a former president of Trinity’s National Alumi Association makes him a perfect fit, Anderson said. The Trinity Tomorrow plan has uncovered “exciting opportunities that we are exploring. We can go even further when we have alumni that want to invest in our goals … make them happen faster and make them stronger.”
Interviewed Tuesday, Bacon said he already is formulating plans to celebrate the university’s 150-year anniversary in 2019 with the launch of capital campaign. For that project and for his day-to-day duties, he said he’ll be taking a more relational approach to fundraising.
“One of the problems with a lot of nonprofits is that they only come to you when they need money,” he said. “My job is to build relationships … so when it happens that we talk about a gift, it will just make sense.”
Bacon will work closely with Anderson to find donors among the school’s alumni and others who have connections to Trinity’s programs and priorities. In other instances, the new team at Trinity will be “starting from scratch” to build new connections to people, companies, or foundations that are unfamiliar with Trinity and its new leadership team.
Bacon’s new position allows his career to come full-circle. He found his passion for fundraising while at Trinity studying for his undergraduate degree in history when he volunteered to call alumni during a phone-a-thon fundraiser.
“Magic happened when I’d call these alumni,” he recalled, laughing. “I’d ask if they’d like to contribute to the university and they’d say ‘yes.’”
While he enjoyed his studies, he couldn’t see himself following the traditional career path of history majors – getting a masters and becoming a professor. The relationships he formed while volunteering at Trinity and his father’s missionary work overseas as a physician combined to inspire him to pursue a line of work in nonprofit funding development.
“It’s really a ‘coming home’ for me,” he said. About 85% of Trinity students receive some sort of financial aid and Bacon was one of them when he attended in the 80s. “Being able to raise money to provide access to (and education) to other families that can’t afford it is a good place for me to be in.”
He has worked in development ever since graduation – at Kenyon College in Ohio, at San Antonio Academy, and the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation. He obtained a masters in business administration from the University of Texas at Austin.
He’ll be leaving his firm Bacon Lee & Associates that he co-founded with Marion Lee in 1999 to work at Trinity. The firm, which assists nonprofits in planning, development, fundraising campaigns, and training, recently celebrated its 15-year anniversary “and the surpassing of a milestone: helping nonprofits raise more than $200 million for causes in San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi, the Texas Hill Country and beyond,” according to the firm’s Tuesday release.
The decision to leave his firm was not an easy one to make, Bacon said.
“I’ve had the best luck in the world with my partner Marion,” he said. “I have no doubt she’ll keep the company moving forward.”
The firm has six employees: four in San Antonio and two in Austin. Bacon will continue as a “silent partner” at the firm.
Lee, a Trinity alumnae and former CEO of the San Antonio Area Foundation, stated in a news release that the firm will keep the Bacon name for now.
“We are thrilled about this opportunity for Mike’s professional advancement,” she stated. “With the strong foundation he and I began at Bacon Lee & Associates, and that continues to this day, the associates and I remain committed to strengthening area nonprofits and helping our clients raise essential funds to benefit causes throughout our area.”
Bacon was recognized in 2008 as an Outstanding Fundraising Executive by the local Association of Fundraising Professionals.
*Featured/top image: Michael Bacon (center) facilitating a strategic planning session for the Community Foundation of the Texas Hill Country. Courtesy photo.