Joshua Else Named Senior Vice President for Advancement for Tufts University

Else, currently associate vice president for development and alumni relations at Johns Hopkins University, starts February 5

Joshua Else, associate vice president for development and alumni relations at Johns Hopkins University, has been named senior vice president for university advancement. In this role, Else will be responsible for the university’s fundraising, alumni relations, advancement operations, and donor relations across Tufts’ undergraduate schools as well as its graduate and professional schools. He will begin in the role on February 5.

Else arrives at Tufts with more than 25 years of experience in all aspects of fundraising, including donor relationship building, staff development, advisory board and executive team engagement, volunteer recruitment and training, campaign planning, and strategy for and implementation of donor stewardship initiatives. In his current role at Johns Hopkins, he directs development and alumni relations efforts for eight schools and divisions, among which are the Bloomberg School of Public Health, the School of Advanced International Studies, and Carey Business School.

During an 18-year career at Johns Hopkins, across multiple positions, Else has driven comprehensive campaigns that raised more than $2 billion as well as annual fundraising efforts for multiple schools and divisions that averaged $230 million per year across those entities. He is also credited with overhauling the fundraising efforts and building a world-class team at the Bloomberg School of Public Health—and with surpassing that school’s initial $600 million fundraising goal to raise $1.2 billion for the school in its most recent campaign. Else began his career at Johns Hopkins as the lead fundraiser for the university’s libraries and museums.

At Tufts, Else succeeds Eric Johnson, who served for 11 years as senior vice president. Johnson will move into the role of senior philanthropic advisor working with the President’s Office.

In June, the university marked the completion of Brighter World: The Campaign for Tufts, which raised $1.53 billion for the university—the most successful fundraising endeavor in Tufts’ history.

Tufts Now: What do you enjoy most about this work?

Joshua Else: It's not my phrase and it is actually the tagline of the Carey Business School, so I won’t take credit for it. But it is my favorite way to explain what advancement is—it’s business with humanity in mind. In securing support for our institutions, we’re trying to further improve those institutions, yes. But it’s bigger than that: we work in service of life-changing research, and for students whom we transform into leaders. The ability to have that kind of impact is one thing that excites me.

I also value the power of philanthropy to marry the passions that our donors have with the ambitions of our institutions to make a difference in the world. When you find those matches, it’s magical.

As one example from Hopkins, we have an alumnus of the Bloomberg School of Public Health whose family had experienced child sexual abuse. Our alumnus was deeply committed to bringing a public health perspective to bear on the root causes of the issue and to end the cycle of abuse before it happens. In partnership with our dean and faculty, he established a new center for the prevention of child abuse at Hopkins.

With his philanthropy, I watched our alumnus address a cause that was so deeply felt in his heart at the same time that he has had a significant impact on the wider world. It’s incredibly exciting to see.

What’s the best professional advice you ever received?

My parents told me when I was really young: Always put yourself in the other person's shoes. It’s all about listening. It’s simple, I know, but it has served me well from my earliest days in sales and then during a career as a front line fundraiser. I have to understand what motivates this person: What is he thinking? What is she hoping to achieve through our organization?

Then, as I grew in my career and started to lead teams, I realized that it’s exactly the same thing, right? You've got to do your very best to understand the perspective of your team. It’s never one-size-fits-all. We have to provide policies and structure, sure, but at the end of the day, good leaders do their very best to understand the specific issues their teams and the individuals on them are confronting and what they need to be successful.

Once you have heard those concerns and opportunities, you need to adapt to the circumstances that you face as a group. And as you make decisions in response to what you’ve learned, you must be as transparent as possible—there’s no such thing as too much communication.

One of the biggest lessons you’ve learned during your career?

The value of the team around you, in two ways. First, it’s the importance of the full advancement team. I played a lot of sports growing up, and yes, the top scorer is important and gets a lot of attention. But the best players don’t go around talking about their individual performance. They recognize they wouldn’t be on the field at all without the rest of their team.

In my world, that includes all aspects of the profession: the operations teams, the volunteer leaders, the prospect researchers, the donor relations officers. Every role is critical to the success of the fundraising effort and they should be celebrated as a team for their efforts.

And the other way in which a team makes a difference? Having a leadership team that offers a compelling vision for where our institution is headed. That takes more than the president—it requires the provost, deans, and faculty to contribute to that vision as well.

When it’s done best, advancement is a full-on team sport, with robust partners in the academic leadership. But you can only be successful with a leadership team that offers that big-picture vision of what the university can be.

Any surprises so far about Tufts?

I have been overwhelmed by how warm and welcoming the community is. I was told this would be the case, but it’s surprising how universal it is. Everyone I’ve met conveys a spirit of collegiality and mutual support. It’s a good fit for me because while I work hard, I want the work to be fun and for colleagues to enjoy what they do together. My wife and I are soon to be empty-nesters and we’re feeling lucky about having this kind of community to join as we relocate to Boston.

You worked closely together with President Kumar when he was provost at Johns Hopkins. Why are you looking forward to working together again?

In my earliest days working with Sunil, I was stunned by all he was able to accomplish as provost. Through a combination of his reputation, the way he worked with deans, and his communication style, he handled challenges and got things done in a way that I had never seen before.

After about one year into his tenure, I remember asking if I could take him to lunch. I wanted to know, “What’s the secret sauce? How do you do all this?” He was generous with his time and mentorship, and I went on to learn so much from him over nearly seven years of working on projects together at Hopkins.

On a personal level, he has a dry sense of humor that I love—and he’s just real. I’ve seen people have great visions for an organization, but they can’t motivate people to get behind them. Sunil has both the vision and the ability to bring people along with him. With that combination, I really think there’s no end to the opportunities for Tufts.

What’s the first thing you plan to do on February 5th?

To echo a theme from earlier, I’ll be listening to colleagues from across Tufts, listening for ways to build on Brighter World. The success that Eric [Johnson] and the whole advancement team had in the last campaign establishes a great foundation for the future philanthropy at Tufts. And now, I’ll be asking questions like: Where can Tufts be 10 years from now? And what role does philanthropy play in getting us there?

I should also stress that, for me, it’s about being present, so I will be spending time in Grafton and Boston as well as on the Medford/Somerville campus. From my years at Hopkins, I’m familiar with a university that’s geographically distributed. And I know how important it is to spend time on all the campuses to understand what makes each of them special.

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