Michael D. “Mike” Davis, veteran fundraiser and nonprofit “legend” in San Antonio, will retire at the end of February after serving 47 years in various development roles for several area nonprofits.
Davis began his career at University of the Incarnate Word when it was still an all-women college, as an admissions counselor and “road runner” representing the school to enrolling high school students. He then took over development responsibilities and served at UIW for 10 years. He moved from there to Oblate School of Theology where he was Vice President of Advancement.
He then travelled north to San Marcos to what was then Southwest Texas State University before returning to San Antonio to work for Cancer Therapy and Research Center (CTRC). Davis then moved to Alexandria, Louisiana to head the Foundation of the Christus St. Frances Cabrini Medical Center.
He and his late wife, Joan, returned to San Antonio when they learned she had cancer and Davis was hired into his final development role at Assumption Seminary from where he will retire on February 28 after six years there.
Members of the Association of Fundraising Professionals honored Davis with its first ever “Outstanding Fundraising Executive” Award in 1997, recognizing his commitment to the fundraising profession, his willingness to mentor new development officers, and for his leadership to the San Antonio Chapter as President in 1992 and 1993.
What does Davis think of his nearly 50-year career in nonprofit fundraising? “One interesting thing about working in nonprofits, whether it’s for a university or a cancer center or a hospital, is the impact a development program has on an institution. When you land a $5 million gift it changes the institution, not only financially, but it changes the people who work there. It tells them that they’re important, that the work they do is significant.”
Davis said that development professionals have a responsibility to help teach their administrators and boards about philanthropy and the importance of donor cultivation. “We have to teach them that two phone calls don’t close a deal. It takes time and effort.” And, he says, seeing one’s work come to fruition is gratifying when one sees that making a significant gift “helps change the donor, too.”
Davis plans to be present at the birth of his 14thgrandchild in New York City in early March. “Other than that, I have no big plans in retirement,” he says.
To mark his retirement, several colleagues commented on his impact on their careers:
Michael Bacon, CFRE, Vice-President, Alumni Relations & Development, Trinity University
I remember going to meet Mike Davis when I was a senior in college. He was at the Oblate School of Technology. He very kindly listened to all my dreams about a future career and encouraged me to consider fundraising as my career. Throughout the years, Mike has been a mentor, a colleague and a friend. His natural humor at many AFP events is legendary. You won’t find a better emcee for an event than Mike Davis.
Marion Therese Lee, Chief Executive Officer, Lee+ Associates
Mike Davis will always be the man with the laughing eyes who always makes people feel safe and positive. Mike would answer my questions honestly, thoughtfully and with a joke or a laugh that relieved my concern of asking a dumb question. I value his ability to put people at ease.
Dianne McAlister, former Director of Development, Daughters of Charity Services
Mike Davis has been a friend to many in the not-profit/fundraising community. I was introduced to Mike in the early 80’s through San Antonio Society of Fund Raising Executives. During those early years Mike was the “go to” guy for jobs in fund raising. Mike counselled many a seasoned professional and gave advise to those looking to start their careers. Mike was the one to call if you were moving to San Antonio or if you were hiring for your team. Mike practiced “the best way to influence is to listen.” And listen he did. It was an invaluable service in those early days. Mike always had a funny story to share and he loved being able to laugh with his friends and colleagues. Retirement is a wonderful reward for all your hard work, Mike. Enjoy your family and enjoy yourself!
Joyce Penland, Senior Associate, Lee+ Associates
Mike Davis was one of the first people I visited when I first came to San Antonio as a new development officer. He encouraged me to believe in myself and that ours was a noble profession. Most of all, he made me laugh! His quick wit, his affable nature, and his commitment to the profession have always made him a favorite among fundraisers in the area. He remains a great friend to this day.
Marc Raney, former Vice President of Advancement, Trinity University and former Senior Vice President of Resource Development, Methodist Healthcare Ministries
If there were a “Dean of Fundraising Professionals” Mike would be appointed unanimously by his peer throughout our community. He would find the title humorous (and he’d never wear the robe) but he’s earned it. No one is respected more for his high ethical standards and ability to organize and encourage others to work for the common good…while keeping us laughing at ourselves along the way. Without a doubt San Antonio is a better place because of Mike’s work in philanthropy for the last 47 years.
Barbara Anne Stephens, former Director of Development, Mission Road Developmental Center and former Senior Associate, Lee+ Associates
Mike has been a generous mentor and colleague to many fundraising professionals. He is appreciated for his quick wit and has served as a Master of Ceremonies for countless organizations. One of his unforgettable quips happened at an AFP conference. A development professional held the winning ticket for a door prize. Mike recognized her as she stood up and he said, “The winner is Mary and she is with Meals on Wheels. Roll on down here Mary and claim your prize!” Mike’s kindness knows no bounds. He is an exemplary father and grandfather, a consummate professional and a treasured friend.