High salary for UNC fundraiser job sends wrong message

July 28, 2013 

Matt Kupec was UNC-Chapel Hill’s chief fundraiser until he resigned last year after reports that he had taken trips at the university’s expense with Tami Hansbrough, mother of a star basketball player and another fundraiser. Kupec, a former UNC quarterback with a long career at the university, made $350,000 a year and enjoyed the perks of traveling the country raising money for one of the nation’s most prominent public universities with roughly 300,000 living alumni.

Yes, Kupec led some big funding drives, including “Carolina First” which brought in over $2 billion.

Now the university wants to hire a replacement who can do likewise. And trustees, who endorsed the idea last week, think that the university needs to up the ante in the job to include not only a salary approaching $400,000 but a bonus of nearly $100,000.

Attaching a bonus to the job, a bonus almost certain to be collected given the university’s track record on fundraising, is most emphatically a bad message to send to alumni, faculty and staff.

This is a job for someone with a spirit of public service. It is almost certainly a job that should go to an alum who knows the university, the state and for that matter, already has a multitude of connections. Considering the number of alums the university has in the state, and native alums who are outside of the state, attracting any number of good candidates should be easy.

And it should not take a big bonus to lure that person to the job. It’s a great job without the bonus, period. And it pays handsomely by almost any definition (although escalating administrative salaries might change that definition for some).

Putting a bonus in the package is not necessary. Bonuses go to top sales people or to executives who deliver financial goals for their companies. Sometimes they even go to average employees who do exceptional work.

But this is a public university.

And it’s not a hard sell. It’s not as if the university needs to hire Indiana Jones to find treasure or Willie Sutton to steal it.

Given the status of the school, it’s also not as if the chief fundraiser is standing out all day trying to make a quota of selling Hondas to beat the Toyota dealer across the street.

If UNC-Chapel Hill doesn’t have enough virtues to convince potential donors (many thousands of them members of the alumni corps, by the way) to open their checkbooks, then there are problems on campus no one knows about. Because the task of making the case for giving money to the university is not breaking rocks in a hot sun.

Yes, it requires a good mind for names, personality skills, knowledge of the institution, familiarity with social media and the various platforms used to put the university’s good name and its virtues in front of the people who might generously support it. And yes, those skills are worth some money in what UNC officials claim is a competitive marketplace, though somehow such jobs do not go vacant for long.

But a bonus? No, something about that cheapens the position, as if candidates for the job are bargaining for it and the university is playing along by sweetening the pot. That is wasteful and in bad taste. This is a good job, an excellent job, and the line is doubtless long with those who would be honored to have it.

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