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Michael Boots: Bolstering University Support

April 27, 2009

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Michael Boots

For senior major gifts officer Michael Boots, success as a fund-raiser comes down to people, relationships, and listening. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

Three young professionals from the University at Albany, Sridar Chittur, research scientist at the Center for Functional Genomics; Kevin Galuski Jr., assistant director of athletics; and Michael Boots, senior major gifts officer in the Office of the Vice President for University Development, help comprise this year’s 40 Under Forty honorees by The Business Review. The program, in its ninth year, recognizes the business accomplishments and community involvement of 40 businesspeople under the age of 40.

Michael Boots sees raising funds for University at Albany programs as an obligation to future students, and a challenge he readily embraces. The senior major gifts officer is acutely aware that in this economy, convincing potential donors that a university is worth an investment is extremely complex.

"One of the most difficult tasks at a public institution is educating our alumni base and donors," Boots said. "Many still think the state provides all of our funding … not true. We have to help them understand that we need to increase our endowment significantly with scholarship and faculty funding if we're to do the right thing by our students and remain competitive with other research universities."

For Boots, building success comes down to people, relationships, and listening. "Each day we look to match up donors' interests with needs of the University," Boots said. "We need to pay close attention to what they believe in and want to support, what inspires them. That, and I'm enthralled with their stories, especially those of our alumni. I love to hear why they chose UAlbany and where they have been since they left."

"Michael Boots is a consummate professional, successful because he understands that fund-raising is more about people than anything else," said Fardin Sanai, UAlbany's vice president for development. "He sees to the needs and desires of both the University and the University supporter."

Recently, Boots was named a local rising star in the regional Business Review's "40 Under Forty," which cites the business accomplishments and community involvement of area businesspeople. The Massena, N.Y. native has spent his spare time helping not-for-profit groups focus their fundraising. He's a member of the Historic Albany Foundation, and won an award for his past service on the board of the Capital District Gay and Lesbian Community Council.

Boots further exercises his creativity in what he calls his hobby and passion, restoring old buildings. He had his first project in hand before he could drive.

"I bought my first building in 1985 at age 15," he said. "Working with my hands in building and creating has always been a part of me. It is the creative end that I really like -- I get a vision of what could be, then build it one step at a time."

Michael Boots judges his successes from more than the donations he fosters to support the University. It's the people he gets to know along the way that, at the day's end, add value to the work.

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