April 23,1998

'You walk in, take a deep breath, and then give it your heartfelt best'

Simeone and Tanguay have zest for the task

by Barbara Black

Ask people for money? It's a job most people wouldn't do for anything. But Marianna Simeone relishes the task because she's good at it, and she's doing it for Concordia.

Simeone is volunteer Co-Chair of the Major Gifts Division of Concordia's Capital Campaign. Building on the success of the University Community and Leadership Gifts Division, canvassers for Major Gifts will be seeking donations of $100,000 to $499,000.

She and Louis Tanguay, CEO of Bell Canada International, stepped in when Humberto Santos died suddenly last fall. His were big shoes to fill, and no sooner had they picked up the threads of their task when the ice storm hit in January. Undaunted, they have recruited about 30 canvassers, all of them top executives.

"Our work really starts now," Simeone said, "as Louis and I get on the phones to make adjustments, and get back to the University to ensure that we're always accurate in our information about the academic projects we're promoting. This is a delicate phase."

Simeone, who has a BA in Italian Studies from Concordia, was admired for her energy and enthusiasm even before she graduated in 1986. While she was still a student, she was the host of Teledomenica, a popular local television show.

At only 26, she was hired as executive director of the Italian Chamber of Commerce, and over the past 12 years has helped to build it into a million-dollar, 600-member organization with business connections throughout the world.

As well as a demanding job, she has a husband and two small sons, but she didn't hesitate when she was asked to take on a responsible post with the Campaign.

"When you care about something, you find the time," she said simply. "I'm always available for something I believe in. When I started having children five years ago, I got involved with Santa Cabrini Hospital, and led its fundraising campaign."

The key to successful fundraising, she said, is solid preparation. Before she and Tanguay did anything else, they did careful research on the University and its wish-list of academic projects, as well as on the profiles of the people they were going to approach. In much of this effort, they relied on the work of the Capital Campaign and University Advancement staff.

But there's another element of preparation that depends more on instinct. "As well as doing your homework, you have to know what makes a person tick," Simeone said. "Then you walk in, take a deep breath, and give it your best. You have to make a really heartfelt, heartfelt sale pitch. And you should also accommodate the donor -- they have needs, too."

Selling Concordia comes easily to Simeone, who loved her years here. She admits that it's easiest to sell businessmen on Concordia's own business school, because that's the discipline they relate to -- "Business today is being shaped by Concordia grads" -- but she tirelessly promotes the expertise, diversity and employability of students from across the University.

With more than 100 prospective donors to be solicited for their division alone, Simeone knows that she and Tanguay have a challenge ahead, but they are facing it with zest.

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