Matt Kupec


Lessons Learned

Lessons Learned

Have you ever worked with somebody who taught you a valuable lesson that you have used in your life? Has anybody given you sage advice? It could be a boss, colleague, parent, teacher, coach, religious leader or somebody else whom you have been associated with during your life.

A good lesson learned will be etched in your memory and probably part of your daily routine. You can recite them in your sleep? Your poor family and friends have heard the lessons hundreds of times. You probably have tried to impart these valuable lessons to colleagues at work!

And sometimes they can be so simple it is astonishing that the lesson you learned has stayed with you for so long!

One that jumps to my mind came years ago when I was just fourteen years old. I was playing in a baseball all-star tournament and my team was set to go against a player who was an all-world pitcher. At practice the day before the game we were all intimidated by what we considered the herculean task of defeating this behemoth. We were even more of an underdog than David vs. Goliath! At least it felt that way!!

But I’ll never remember my coach, Mr. Wilkinson, telling us not to be intimidated by this guy and that he “puts his pants on one leg at a time just like we do. His message was clear. This guy was mortal and he was beatable. Well we went out the next day and won the game to advance to the National Championship Babe Ruth World Series. And thanks to Mr. Wilkinson I never ever let anybody intimidate me before a game for the rest of my career!! Any imposing situation I face, I recite the words of wisdom from Mr. Wilkinson!

I’m not even sure what Mr. Wilkinson did for a living. He was the head coach because his son played on the team but his simple lesson that day stuck with me and has served as an important lesson for me in all walks of life.

I have been blessed to have worked with some of the most successful people in this country. I have been raised and mentored by loving, caring and insightful parents. I had great teachers. I have worked for some great bosses. And I have learned from many of them. Their words or wisdom and knowledge have helped me to inspire thousands of staff members who have worked for me.

You must have lessons that you have learned and have helped shape your career and your life? Listed below you will find just a sampling of the many lessons that I have been taught over the years that have impacted my life decisions. I believe you will find them interesting, and perhaps surprising. In some cases, I believe the individual responsible for the lesson would be amazed to have made this list. Here you go:

“Pizza Theory”. This one came from one of my all-time favorite bosses, former UNC Chancellor Michael Hooker. Chancellor Hooker was probably the most visionary boss I ever had. You remember the old commercial about the financial services company that said when “EF Hutton talks, everybody listens?” Well, the same in real life could be said for Chancellor Hooker. When he spoke, he had the undivided attention of all. One of his theories was “the pizza theory.” Pizza theory??? What it means is that when we order a couple of slices of pizza we are so in a hurry to get to the second piece that we forget to enjoy the taste of the first slice of pizza! I find myself doing exactly the same with pizza and life. I rush through that first slice, stuffing it done my face, so focused on getting to the next slice that I forget to enjoy the taste of the first piece! So, a great leader must make sure to pause and celebrate the success of the team. Enjoy the success. You will move on quickly to the next “pizza slice” in your business journey but don’t cheat yourself of enjoying the “first slice” or first business success.
“It takes a 100% return to break even when you have lost 50%”. This one comes from Mark Yusko, the very successful CEO and Founder of a multi-billion dollar investment firm. Mark was a colleague at UNC where he served as Chief Investment Officer at UNC. Mark, who is a good friend, is a very wise and smart investor. His lesson was simple and dealt with managing risk and looking for opportunities in growth and value of your investments. When you have a stock that trades at $4/share and it drops to $2/share that is a 50% decrease. To get back to the original price of $4/share, you will need a 100% return – taking the stock from $2/share to $4/share! Simple but profound!! His point was that with endowment and investment returns you don’t want to decline or go backwards because a 50% drop will necessitate a 100% increase to bring you back to the price where you started!
“Put Yourself in a Position where Good Things will Happen”. This lesson comes from my former UNC head football coach Bill Dooley. Coach Dooley recruited my brother Chris and me to UNC so we will forever be grateful. And Coach Dooley was probably the coach most responsible for elevating the level of football being played in the ACC. Coach Dooley was tough, he was old school as a former offensive lineman, he was totally committed to the running game and the discipline and power it took to run the ball, and he disdained the forward pass during our UNC years. He would often cite that “3 things can happen when you throw the ball and two (incompletion and interception) are bad!” But Coach Dooley was a man of lessons and one his favorite sayings was that you needed “to put yourself in a position where good things will happen.” It meant that as players we must know our assignments, we must have prepared and practiced hard for the game, and we must have gotten our rest. If we were physically and mentally prepared to put yourself in a position where good things will happen, then undoubtedly good things would happen. We make the plays and create the opportunities. So, much like everything we do in life we have to be ready, we have to prepare and then we have to execute. If we do, we will have “put ourselves in a position where good things will happen.”
“Solicitation is part of the cultivation”. This lesson comes from Paul Fulton, one the true giants I have ever worked with. And maybe the individual I learned the most lessons from. Paul was a UNC graduate from tiny Walnut Cove, NC (population 1,000) who went on to become President of Sara Lee Corporation, the huge consumer goods company. Paul also served in many other key roles including Dean of the UNC Business School and Bank of America Board of Director member. Paul was the co-chair of the Carolina First Campaign which raised $2.4B and at the time was the 5th largest completed university campaign in U.S. history! Paul was the most remarkable “make things happen” person I have ever worked with in my life! This lesson comes from his work as the volunteer leaders of this huge UNC campaign. We had a number of fundraisers who would take prospects to lunch every week but would never get around to asking for the philanthropic gift! And then they would go to lunch the following week with the same outcome. Finally, Paul – in a bit of frustration – taught us the lesson that the “solicitation is part of the cultivation!” This means that to move the process to closure it is often important to put the proposal on the table even if it doesn’t close at that meeting. Asking for the business helps to drive future conversations between the prospect and fundraiser and puts everybody on the same page. I truly great lesson for all of us in whatever line of business we are in.
These are but a few of the countless lessons I have learned over the years that have impacted the decisions I make in my professional and personal life. I’d love to hear examples of lessons you have learned if you would be willing to share them. Please go to and on the contact page, let me know the lessons you have learned.

About the Author (
Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with 32 years of significant higher education development experience. He has directed three major university fundraising campaigns and nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership. He has led the fundraising programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and HelpMeSee, a New York City based non-profit.

How to Become a Philanthropist

How to Become a Philanthropist

Being a philanthropist isn’t only about donating money. Although donating money to a charity is a noble thing to do, there are a lot more things that go into being a successful philanthropist. Taking on this title requires work outside of simple donation, and below are some tactics you can employ if you want to be a true philanthropist.

Find a Charity

You have to do your research before you ascribe to a cause. There are many charities out there worthy of your time and money, however it is important to be passionate about a cause and in line with an organization’s mission in order to create a successful relationship with it. To get started, here is a list of 2018’s top nonprofit organizations. It is also important to research some of the terms that go along with philanthropy such as non profit, endowments, capital campaign, and so on. Here is a list of terminology related to philanthropy.

Be a Leader

It is important that a philanthropist is not only knowledgeable about the causes they support, but is also a leader in that organization, industry, or what have you. It is often the case that donors to a cause gain a voice within that organization. As such, these individuals must have the courage to speak up, voice opinions, and take charge of situations. You may have to take on a larger role in an organization outside of donating money, simply because there is a need to be filled. You have to be willing to advocate for your cause and put your words behind your donations.


Volunteering for a cause will give you insight that you wouldn’t have been exposed to otherwise. Typically you see individuals volunteering who don’t have the means to be big time donors, however it is an experience that everyone should have. There are countless reasons to volunteer, some of which you might not think of. Often volunteering helps people to connect with others, and boosts their self esteem. If those reasons aren’t enough, you can reference this list of reasons people volunteer.

Donate Money

Last, and most obvious but not not least, a philanthropist is someone who donates money to a cause. While most philanthropists better the lives of others through large donations, the definition of philanthropist doesn’t exclude those who simply wish to improve the welfare of others. Donations can help causes in many ways, such as providing resources, and often the more successful organizations have a large network of donors. However, it is not the most important part of what it means to be a philanthropist.

Highly successful fundraising leader with nearly $5 billion raised

Matt Kupec:

  • Fundraising professional with 30+ years of significant higher education and healthcare development experience
  • Significant track record of increasing philanthropic support
  • Directed three major fundraising campaigns
  • Nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership

About Matt Kupec

Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with 35 years of significant development experience as the chief development officer at institutions in higher education and healthcare. Here is just a sampling of what has been accomplished under his leadership:

  • Nearly $5 billion has been raised to support people, programs and facilities
  • He has directed three successful major fundraising campaigns
  • The Carolina First Campaign at UNC-Chapel Hill was the 5th most successful university campaign ever in US history.
  • Development programs have been recognized as being among the finest in the country.
  • Secured many seven and eight figure gifts, including four $50M+ gifts

Matt’s leadership style has been shaped by the many experiences in his lifelong journey as a professional fundraiser. His interactions with leaders in higher education, health care, business, government and the non-profit sector – and even his role as the quarterback of his college football team – have helped to inform his leadership style.

What drives Matt Kupec in his work is his belief that philanthropy does play an important role in providing critical resources to help an organization fulfill its objectives. Fundraising has an impact. Gifts that are secured can truly transform the lives of thousands of people. Matt sees this as a window of opportunity to really make a difference in the world we live. This mentality and vision shapes his overall passion and work ethic each and every day.

One of Matt’s favorite quotes about team playing within an organization is that “when you want to go fast, go alone. But when you want to go far, we must go together.” And you’ll see throughout his experiences, Matt Kupec has always been a champion that team building may be the most important part of developing a very successful fundraising program.

The really wonderful aspect of fundraising is that you learn lessons each and every day. Dealing with donors, volunteers, development staff, and senior management is a work in progress. It has to be cultivated, nurtured and cared for each and every day. How well you succeed in addressing all of these areas will be the answer to what “culture of philanthropy” you are able to establish within your organization. And the stronger that culture, the more successful your fundraising program will be.

The Early Years: Educational Experience

Matt Kupec has always been a leader throughout his life. Born and raised in Syosset, NY on Long Island, he enjoyed a prolific high school career as an outstanding student-athlete. A three sport star – football, basketball and baseball – Matt earned many honors and awards including prep All-American in football where he led his Syosset HS football squad to an undefeated season and #1 ranking as the top High School team in the entire New York state.

With many full scholarship offers to choose from following his successful football career, Matt Kupec chose to accept a full scholarship to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill because of its high academic standing and strong football program.

At UNC, Matt was the starting quarterback for four years and led the Tar Heels to bowl games in three of the four seasons. He was named Most Valuable Player in the Liberty and Gator Bowls.

Matt set 19 season and career passing records while a UNC quarterback. In fact, two of those records – most consecutive games throwing a touchdown pass and most wins as a starting quarterback – remain standing nearly 40 years after his playing career. Matt earned a reputation for being a “winner” during his UNC career.

About this Site

$390 billion was given to charities in the United States in 2017! Yes, $390 billion! These dollars came from individuals, corporations and foundations to non-profit organizations. Fundraising continues to become more important for all charities throughout the land due to ever increasing pressures to increase revenue. On this site you will find articles, blogs, and informational videos that can help you in your journey to build a fundraising program that is providing you with the philanthropic resources needed to help your organization meet its ambitious goals.

“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

African Proverb

Matt Kupec’s Work

Here are three work experiences in three different industries that have significantly shaped Matt Kupec’s wisdom and style in fundraising and fundraising management:

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill | Higher Education

The University of North Carolina at Chapel is one of the top-ranked universities in the country. As the nation’s first public university, the University has as its mission teaching, research and public service. Over the years, UNC has been strongly supported by state’s general assembly with significant state appropriations but over the years the percentage of the budget that is covered by appropriations has fallen below 10%.

Despite its standing as the nation’s first public university and with a proud and loyal alumni base, UNC had never made the commitment to secure significant philanthropic dollars. That changed with the launch of the University’s 1st comprehensive campaign — the Bicentennial Campaign for Carolina — that Matt directed to a successful completion.

At UNC, Matt led and managed the Office of University Advancement which included the fundraising and university relations offices. His responsibilities included providing fundraising leadership for all 24 academic and healthcare units of the University including the UNC Medical Center. He managed a budget of $27 million with 200+ employees. Matt also served as the Executive Director of the UNC-Chapel Hill Foundation and as a member of the $2.8 billion UNC-CH Endowment Investment Fund.

 Moffitt Cancer Center | Healthcare

Moffitt Cancer Center is one of the leading cancer research institutes in the country. It is an organization with a single purpose to prevent and find the cure for cancer. Moffitt was founded in 1986 and had no significant fundraising history or success. Philanthropic dollars had been raised but nowhere the level the level that other freestanding cancer centers like Memorial Sloan Kettering and MD Anderson had enjoyed over the years. Matt was brought on to turn that around and build an operation that would secure the philanthropic dollars needed to support in Moffitt’s mission to find a cure for cancer.

Matt led and managed the Moffitt Foundation, the fundraising arm of Moffitt Cancer Center. The foundation raises significant and diverse gifts from individuals, corporations, and foundations, in support of Moffitt’s funding priorities, and stewards all gifts according to the highest standards of care, respect and fiscal responsibility.

  • Raised the entire FY18 fundraising goal in six months
  • Cash flow increased from $13M to $37M in one year
  • Secured seven major gifts ($1M+) in twelve months, a 250% increase over the historical average of 2 major gifts per year
  • Secured the two largest grateful patient gifts ($3.5M and $3M) in Moffitt history
  • Introduced a metrics system for fundraiser performance evaluation

HelpMeSee | Not-for-Profit Charity

HelpMeSee, a non-profit organization committed to ending the global health crisis of cataract blindness for the 20 million individuals world-wide who are needlessly blind due to cataracts. A simple surgery exists to restore sight but there is a shortage of trained specialists in the third world to deliver this procedure. HelpMeSee’s technological solution includes the development of the first ever high scale simulator-based medical surgical training system to train thousands of specialists to perform cataract surgery.

Matt led and managed the development and marketing efforts for HelpMeSee. His principal duties included strategic planning, major gift fundraising and overall leadership to build a development operation.

Only five years old at the time, HelpMeSee received the 2016 Classy Award as one of the ten most innovative charities and social enterprises in the United States.

  • Cash receipts reached nearly $10-$20 million annually with a file of 50,000 active donors.
  • Restored sight for over 250,000 individuals.