Fast 15: Lizzie Johnson

by Robin Mero ( 909 views 

Class of 2018 Lizzie Johnson Director of Annual Giving University of Arkansas

A few minutes with Lizzie Johnson can transform one’s perception of fundraising.

The work is incredibly rewarding when you’re seeking money for something you believe in, Johnson said. For six years, she’s been pursuing innovative ways to raise funds for her alma mater.

Johnson leads teams that make the phone calls, send the mail and emails and craft the crowdfunding campaigns to generate financial support for the University of Arkansas.

At times she’s had to bravely ask for million-dollar gifts. But fundraising is far more than asking for money, she said. It’s about listening, matchmaking and connecting.

That’s increasingly true, she said. Older alumni can be motivated by loyalty to their alma mater, but younger generations want to see the direct, tangible impact made by their gifts. Sometimes that requires seeking a customized fit for a donor.

Smaller gifts unite to become substantial, so she encourages her team to craft personalized experiences and communicate why each gift matters.

Johnson has a passion for people and learning, a motivational attitude and is a collaborative leader, her co-workers say.

She literally grew up on campus. It’s where her parents, David and Mary Beth Matthews, met. Her mother was teaching at the law school before Johnson was born.

Johnson earned her own degrees there, most recently a master’s in higher education. In July 2011, she became an admissions counselor, then she worked in development for the Sam M. Walton College of Business. Last summer she was promoted to her current role.

“I never was interested in the private sector,” Johnson said. “It’s innate in me. It’s the way I’m built.”

She emphasizes the use of technology and data to gain insights and make decisions.

“Keeping up with the ever changing landscape of technology will help our students and bring us into the next era,” she said. “There is a misconception that rising tuition and state funding are sufficient means of income for the university, and we do so much good for the state and the country.”

Johnson and her husband live in Fayetteville and have a 6-month-old daughter, Juniper. Johnson is a board member for Fayetteville’s Drake Field, a volunteer with the iFriend Program and has been active with the city’s animal services program.