Class Agent Spotlight: February 2012

Chris P headshot

Chris P. Barth (MBA '94)

Why is giving back to Darden important to you?
Giving back to Darden is important to me because Darden is my school and my community. We are a reflection of the school out in the business world. Our responsibility for improving the school doesn’t end at graduation. At graduation we’re just really becoming part of the family. It’s time for us to be involved with recruiting, hiring, mentoring and networking and make contributions of time, talent and treasure to improve the community and the reputation of the school. Also, I think Dean Bruner brought the much-needed vision and leadership to the school, so I’m happy to support his great efforts. 

What advice would you offer a new Class Agent?
Make it fun and make it personal. We’ve really tried to adopt an engagement strategy and help get the class re-engaged through e-mails, phone calls, local chapter events, lunches, whatever works for your class. If people don’t feel connected with their classmates then they won’t feel connected to the school. As Class Agents, it’s our job to be a conduit between (and among) our classmates and the school. Also, on a practical note, make sure that you have good contact information for everyone. It’s impossible to interact with an e-mail that bounced back. 

Why do you give to the Darden Annual Fund?
I know firsthand from working at the Thomas Jefferson Foundation (Monticello) how important unrestricted annual fund dollars are to non-profit organizations. These dollars provide financial flexibility in operating a business. My contribution to the annual fund is one of the ways that I support and give back to Darden -- and if I’m going to ask 225 people to give to Darden, I better be willing to put my money where my mouth is! 

What has been your most successful fundraising strategy?
My view is that the fundraising is more of a marathon than a sprint. Although the goals for the annual fund come and go each year, we’re really trying to get our classmates reconnected with the school so that the financial support is just one of the ways we help move Darden forward. We’ve worked with the Class Secretaries to form an Engagement Committee so the effort is really synchronized. We also had a competition between our original sections, which allowed us to engage eight additional classmates in a very targeted approach. 

We try to provide information, have fun, reconnect people and also ask for money. Highlighting what people are doing has been a successful strategy for engagement. Who’s been at the job the longest? Who has returned to academia? Section Reps – where are they now? These are ways to include more of a random selection of classmates and not necessarily those folks who already write into class notes and provide updates. Pictures are also good; especially old pictures.  

What challenges have you overcome as a fundraising volunteer?
I’ve overcome the reluctance to ask people for money. It’s not that I suddenly love calling people to ask for money, but I am calling and asking for their support for something that I believe in and to which they have a connection and a vested interest. 

What have you found is the best way to stay connected with your classmates?
E-mail and calling has been most effective for us. Also, I try to go to lunch periodically with my classmates in the area. 

What is your greatest memory from Darden?
I don’t have a single greatest memory from Darden and I think the memories are still being created. The Darden experience doesn’t end at graduation; rather you’ve fully joined the community of Darden and can look forward to the lifelong learning as part of that community. 

Which Darden professor influenced you the most?
This story illustrates how being part of the Darden community doesn’t end at graduation. Dana Clyman brought the community aspect to life for me by demonstrating how to wrap the alumni into the fold for life long learning. In 2002, shortly after I had been laid off from a dot-bomb that had filed for Chapter 11, I saw Dana at the Boar’s Head Sports Club. He was my professor for Bargaining and Negotiating – one of my favorite classes. Out of the blue, he encouraged me to come back to Darden and join in his Multi-Party Negotiation class over spring break. He insisted, however, that I be committed, if I agreed to participate, because it was going to be as rigorous as a first year schedule. He introduced me to the class as one of his first Darden students and off we went. He was right about it being a grueling schedule, but it was just what I needed at the time. 

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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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