Class Agent Spotlight: Brad Akard

brad akard headshot

Brad Akard (MBA '07)

Why did you become a class agent?
I became a class agent by being a co-chair of the Second Year Class Gift. Working on the class gift campaign was just the perfect way to say "thanks" to Darden for two great years and preparing me for the next chapter in my career. I have continued as a class agent for five years because I truly enjoy staying in touch with all of my classmates and seeing how their gifts are making Darden even better. 

Why is giving back to Darden important to you?
We are all representatives of the Darden brand, so the success of the program reflects positively on each of us. Giving back to Darden through time and financial resources helps secure that continuous success. 

What advice would you offer a new class agent?
Keep an open dialogue with your classmates all year long so making the "ask" is a more natural process. Personal contacts – in-person meetings, phone calls, or personal e-mails — have always worked well for me, so you really need to take a year-long view at your work as an agent so you’re not trying to make 300 calls at the end of the fiscal year. Finally, leverage your resources — the Annual Fund staff has always been an incredible help to me, and, if you find you need more help, ask a classmate! You’ll be surprised how willing they are to help. 

Why do you give to the Darden Annual Fund?
In order for Dean Bruner to be able to invest in new technologies, attract the best and brightest students and retain outstanding faculty, he needs consistent and reliable sources of funds. Unrestricted gifts to the Darden Annual Fund give him the flexibility to invest in the areas of the greatest need to advance the School. 

What has been your most successful fundraising strategy?
It really comes down to personal contacts. I travel frequently with my job, so I routinely try to meet up with a few Darden alums while on the road to catch up and, of course, talk about all the great things that are happening at Darden. I can tailor the approach based on the audience — some are really focused on how unrestricted gifts help advance the program, and some are purely "thank you" visits for continued generosity. I think my classmates realize that I’m coming to them as a friend and out of a place of gratitude to Darden, and that frequently makes the difference. 

What have you found is the best way to stay connected with your classmates?
I send a ton of e-mails, but I also use Facebook and Twitter (@bradtacular) as tools to keep up with classmates. The majority of my class is active on Facebook, so it's really easy to see updates in their lives. It’s amazing to me when I "check in" at an airport or something while traveling on Facebook and a bunch of Darden classmates want to meet up! 

What challenges have you overcome as a fundraising volunteer?
The recession was obviously very hard on my class. At one point, we had a high unemployment rate within our class and the outlook was pretty grim. Instead of making an appeal solely for funds, I reminded my classmates that the Annual Fund helps provide programs like Alumni Career Services. I think my classmates realized that Darden was always going to be there to help in career transitions, and, obviously, we appreciate the generosity of those that can give. We followed that year up with our most successful year as a class in terms of participation and dollars given. 

Why did you choose Darden?
It came down to fit. Darden was the first school I visited, and I immediately knew it was the place for me. Everyone was incredibly welcoming, and the classroom experience I observed was exceptional. I found myself comparing every other school I visited to Darden! 

What is your greatest memory from Darden?
My first year "Building Goodness in April" auction was hysterical — and it was a great way to bond with my section mates. 

Which Darden professor influenced you the most?
Lili Powell. She truly taught me how to harness the power of effective communication in order to inspire and motivate others, and I use those skills daily in my career. Lots of managers can crunch numbers or run an analysis, but Lili taught me that a true leader can turn the mundane into the extraordinary with powerful communication. 

What sets Darden apart from other graduate business schools?
I think that virtually every business school talks about "community," but Darden is the real deal. It’s hard to explain to a prospective student, but it’s easy to see in person. You really get more than just an education at Darden; you gain a bond with thousands of Darden alums. 

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If you wish to volunteer as a class agent or have questions about ways to volunteer for Darden, please contact us at dardenannualfund@darden.virginia.edu.

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