Thomas Baird has been appointed as the vice president for development at the University of Michigan following the retirement of Jerry May. Baird, previously the assistant dean for advancement at LSA, officially stepped into the role Jan. 1.
Baird previously served as assistant vice president and campaign director for LSA’s Victors for Michigan campaign that raised more than $5 billion, the vice chancellor for advancement at UM-Dearborn from 2003 to 2011 and as the interim associate vice president of development for Michigan Medicine in 2015.
The Office of University Development fosters private support for the University by collaborating with development programs of University units, schools and colleges. They spearhead fundraising projects and aim to maintain long-term relationships with alumni, foundations and corporations. Such fundraising efforts are aimed to invest in the University’s growth as a whole and to allow for the undergraduate experience to be a fulfilling one without any barriers.
Baird will be responsible for all fundraising activities pertaining to the University, like Telefund. He will lead the Office of University Development and have oversight over more than 30 fundraising units, such as Michigan Medicine, UM-Flint and UM-Dearborn. Serving as an executive officer, he will report to the University president.
Telefund is one of the ways the OUD meets their mission. At Telefund, University students fundraise for student support, including merit and need-based scholarships, by calling on University alumni and donors. They also fundraise for different programs and departments in all the colleges within the University to help them pay for general needs, emergency funds, renovation budgets and other necessities.
Engineering freshman Rachel Li works for Telefund and explained Telefund is important because it helps make the University more affordable for those who rely on financial aid to attend.
“As someone who relies on school scholarships and funding to be able to afford Michigan, I know how important that support is, and through Telefund, I can not only work in a great environment, but also help other students get the aid they need,” Li said.
In LSA’s OUD, Baird worked closely with the director of marketing and communications, Jon Lofy.
“I worked with him (Baird) for over six years; he’s an outstanding leader and a really good person who loves the University and really wants it to succeed,” Lofy said. “I think he has the talent and integrity to do really great work that will help the University accomplish its goals.”
During his time at LSA, Baird raised 136 percent of the college’s Victors for Michigan campaign goal with the help of his 85-person team.
Dondi Cupp is the associate vice president for development and has been working closely with Baird. He highlighted the impact Baird has had on the University community.
“Tom was the architect for the Victors for Michigan campaign,” Cupp said. “This was a seven-and-a-half-year campaign that obviously has been very successful. We just concluded at midnight on Dec. 31, and totals are still being tallied, but it looks like we’ll end the campaign at $5.2 billion.”
Baird is especially excited to continue his work here at the University, his alma mater and where he first launched his career in fundraising.
“I moved back to Ann Arbor and an opportunity opened up at the Law School as a major gift officer,” Baird said. “One of the greatest things about working at Michigan is that there are so many opportunities along the way in such a large, complex place that you can really grow a substantial career here. I feel so privileged and honored to have this opportunity. And everything I have done before has prepared me for this role and I’m just really excited to be here.”
Baird cares deeply about the University and his dedication to his work and new role reflects such a relationship.
“The amount of passion the alumni have for the institution is really incredible and it’s one of the ways we’re able to raise money — because people care so much about Michigan,” Baird said. “I’m no different. The opportunity to work for my alma mater and to give back through my work is just really exciting.”
Cupp expressed great confidence in Baird’s capabilities and his new role as vice president.
“Everyone in the Michigan development community is incredibly excited about Tom’s appointment as vice president. Tom is a seasoned professional who has spent more than 20 years in a variety of successful fundraising leadership roles at Michigan. And he is the ideal choice to lead us into the next great era of fundraising at Michigan,” Cupp said.
With the conclusion of the Victors campaign, it is now time for the organization to assess and look back, Baird explains. Baird intends to focus on organizational leadership, creating a positive work culture and developing trusted relationships.
“We talk a lot about positive culture and creating a work environment that will attract the best talents from around the country and also help them be aligned with the work that they do.” Baird said. “That’s one of the most interesting and unique things about fundraising; people are so connected to the mission.”
Baird seeks to maintain the current culture within fundraising for the University.
“People really care about the work that they do,” Baird said. “They get satisfaction, they’re motivated and energized by the work and my role leading over 170 people here at the Office of University Development reflect that; I think culture is really important.”
Baird commends the power of the University’s culture to create and impact an international community of Victors who are willing to invest in the University’s future.
“The University of Michigan school spirit is a unique combination of excellence in athletics and excellence in academics,” Baird said. “It’s a rare combination and so many people tell me around the country that they think back on how important Michigan was to their development. It’s why so many people give back. They want the excellence of the University of Michigan experience to be maintained.”