Brett Anderson has made a career of the unexpected.
After graduating from Colorado State University with a degree in mechanical engineering, he decided to take his expertise to the consulting world where he built a successful 22-year career with the global business and technology company Accenture.
“I’ve actually never engineered a darned thing,” he said. “I’ve never practiced as an engineer for even one day.”
While working as a managing partner at Accenture, Anderson made sure he gave back to CSU through philanthropy and service. He chaired the University’s Development Council, volunteered with the CSU Alumni Association and was recognized with numerous awards, including the Colorado State Personal Service Award and 2004 College of Engineering Distinguished Alumni Award.
It was his involvement with strengthening CSU’s presence in Denver that led him to his next unexpected career move: vice-president for University Advancement. In 2009, he was recruited by CSU President Tony Frank for the role.
“If you asked me if I ever thought I’d end up working at CSU, I would have laughed. Yet here I am,” said Anderson.
And that’s a very good thing for CSU.
New fundraising heights
Anderson has completely changed the fundraising landscape at CSU. With his expertise in consulting, he focused on system innovations. And goals. Very big goals, in fact.
Anderson’s first order of business at CSU was leading the $500 million “Campaign for Colorado State University,” to a successful conclusion. The campaign’s progress had slowed – thanks, in part, to the economy – but Anderson was undeterred.
“Everybody was using the economy as an excuse, and I was tired of hearing that,” Anderson said. “I was determined that we could make that goal.”
His strategy was simple: Let potential donors in on a little secret he had known for years.
“I sincerely believe CSU is the best university – period,” he said. “We have the best people, the best students, the best campus, the best faculty, the best leadership. It’s an incredible place.”
Turns out, Anderson was right. CSU reached its $500 million goal six months ahead of schedule and raised nearly $40 million beyond its goal.
And that’s not all. Over the past eight years, alumni participation in philanthropy has doubled and the total number of annual donors has increased from 24,000 to almost 40,000 a year.
Not long after completing the first campaign in 2012, CSU embarked on a much more ambitious path: The $1 billion “State Your Purpose – The Campaign for Colorado State University.”
Under Anderson’s leadership, CSU has raised more than $760 million thus far, obliterating fundraising records along the way. And there are still nearly 3 1/2 years left in the campaign.
“We (CSU community) have a completely different attitude than we had even 10 years ago,” Anderson said. “Tony says it all the time – we expect excellence in everything we do, including fundraising. Our alumni and friends are so proud of this place, and they are expressing that pride with their support.”
Record of major successes
Anderson has also helped secure the two largest private gifts in the university’s history: $53.5 million in 2016 from alumnus Walter Scott to name the Walter Scott, Jr. College of Engineering, and $42.5 million from Leslie and John Malone in 2014 to launch the Institute for Biologic Translational Therapies.
With these kinds of successes, you might think Anderson is ready to relax and enjoy all that he has accomplished. Yet Saturday night at the annual 1870 dinner, Frank announced that Anderson has accepted a new role: special assistant to the president.
In this position, he will serve as an internal consultant to Frank with the – yet again – very big goal of improving efficiency and accountability across the University. Kim Tobin will step in to take over as vice president for Advancement.
“Brett Anderson loves his alma mater and has improved it beyond measure – building the best advancement team in the country, leading us to a four-fold increase in annual fundraising and a near doubling of our active donors,” Frank said. “I am delighted that he will continue to play a leadership role at CSU, focusing on ways to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operations.”
Anderson is excited by the prospect of a new challenge working for the University he loves. And he appreciates that for many, this move may be unexpected.
“Having been on campus for the past eight years, you get exposed to a lot of things – a lot of processes,” he said. “I saw an opportunity to help CSU in new ways – to do things better – and that’s exciting.”
What that means exactly, he’s not quite sure. But one thing is certain: it will involve goals. Very big goals.