COC Appoints New Chief Development Officer
Murray Wood will work to secure private donations to the college.
The Santa Clarita Community College District and the College of the Canyons Foundation have announced the appointment of Murray Wood to the post of Chief Development Officer — a position dedicated to securing major gifts and donations to the college in order to provide greater access and increased opportunity to COC students.
Wood, who comes to COC with more than 30 years of experience as a non-profit organization executive, will work closely with COC Superintendent-President Dr. Dianne Van Hook, the Board of Trustees and the Foundation to coordinate and lead the college’s ongoing fundraising endeavors, identify potential donors and develop and maintain collaborative relationships with community leaders, while ensuring the integration of the Foundation’s strategic plan to meet identified development goals and objectives.
“Fundraising and development are a lot like rocket science, we move from stage to stage, and at some point in the life cycle of an institution you are ready to move on to the next stage,” said Wood. “And that’s why I’m here, to help move our program up to the next level.”
The College of the Canyons Foundation is a non-profit 501(c)(3) auxiliary organization supporting the District by generating funds to support programs for student success and innovation. With more than 10,000 donors, the Foundation provides financial resources for scholarship endowment, educational programs, and capital improvements, which can
“We are thrilled to have Murray join our fundraising team,” said COC Foundation Chief Operational Officer Cathy Ritz. “His extensive experience and high level of expertise will certainly help take the Foundation to the next level.”
As a highly skilled and successful development officer, Wood has considerable experience in raising funds for healthcare, human services and most notably institutions of higher education — a group Wood is admittedly passionate about serving. “I understand the value that higher education has in society, in the lives of students and the lives of their families,” Wood said. “So to be able to make a difference and help in that area is very important to me.”
In striving to help make that difference at COC, Wood is eager to familiarize himself with the campus and surrounding Santa Clarita Valley community, while beginning to form friendships and partnerships that will help serve the college.
“I see part of my job as making friends and helping friends. So I envision that I’m not going to have too many free weekends or evenings in the next couple of months,” Wood said, referring to the many community events he has already been invited to attend. “But I’m excited to get out and around so that people can identify me with the college, and so I can become familiar with the folks that care most about COC.”
Though impressed with the college, the campus and the many programs and opportunities already available to students, Wood commented that in his new position the opportunity to seek out new and innovative projects and funding them will be very important.
“I think the campus looks very impressive,” Wood continued. “But it also seems to me that it would be advantageous for us to recognize people who have a philanthropic impulse and want to help the college, by offering them the opportunity to name these facilities in perpetuity so that they and their families, and heirs to come, will have a lasting legacy with College of the Canyons.”
Another immediate need recognized by Wood is to enhance the college’s endowment fund, by helping donors wanting to leave enduring gifts that will play a vital role in the future of both the college and surrounding community.
“Endowments are just one way of contributing, but it’s the gift that keeps on giving,” said Wood in reference to the fact that only the interest earnings of endowment gifts are used, leaving the principle to continually generate income for the college. “So one of our goals will be to have our endowment fund increase many fold.”
Wood’s history of work for institutions of higher education begin in 1996 at Ben-Gurion University of Negrev in Israel, where he served as the Southwest Regional Director, and was responsible for the University’s regional fundraising and public relations programs.
Beginning in 1999, Wood served as Associate Vice President for University Development at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), and was responsible for the overall direction and management of its fund development program.
“I was there at a very formidable period of time,” said Wood about his time at CSUN, after the 1994 earthquake when major repairs and rebuilding construction was taking place. “So our development efforts were very much geared to support the growth that was taking place during that rebuilding.”
Wood went on to discuss some of the similar challenges facing both CSUN and COC in terms of their respective development needs — pointing out that both campuses are considered commuter schools, both are shadowed by larger surrounding institutions in the area, and both are state funded which often leads to a false perception that outside support isn’t needed.
While at CSUN Wood achieved an outstanding record in fundraising, including securing several major gifts of more than $1 million, while also successfully soliciting an individual major gift valued at $35-$38 million — the largest gift ever donated to a California State University campus. In addition, Wood led the effort to increase CSUN’s level of private support from $5 million in 1998-1999, to a record $23.4 million
raised in 2003-2004.
In 2004 Wood assumed the post of Vice President of Institutional Advancement at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, and was again responsible for the direction and management of a comprehensive institutional development program. More recently Wood served as Director of Development and Marketing at New Direction, Inc. — a leading mental health and substance abuse recovery program for homeless U.S. veterans — from 2005-2007.
Prior to his appointment at COC, Wood served as the Executive Director of Variety - The Children’s Charity of Southern California — an entertainment industry-based organization dedicated to raising funds for the purpose of inspiring hope, enriching lives and building a better future for the children of Southern California.
“Fundraising and development are long processes, and they don’t happen over night. It’s a process of relationship building, and that’s why we call it development, because you are developing lasting relationships with the donors,” Wood said.
“So I try to match the interests of the perspective donor, with the priorities of the college. And hopefully you are able to achieve a favorable outcome, where the college is grateful for the support and the donor feels like they’ve done something that gives them a legacy into the future.”