The Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, a biomedical and genomic research center located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, retained Isaacson, Miller to recruit a chief development officer. With the help of Dr. Eric Lander, the founding director at the Broad, Jack Gorman and his team conducted a national search to identify a compelling pool of candidates, one of whom would possess the vision and insight to lead development efforts for a world-renowned scientific institution at a pivotal time in its history. Dr. Lander recruited Dr. Justine Levin-Allerhand, the former Deputy Director for International Fundraising for Yale University.
Dr. Levin-Allerhand recently spoke with IM about her work at the Broad and the opportunities inherent in her role as a scientifically-trained fundraiser.
Readers will be interested to know a little bit about your background.
After a year at the Yale School of Medicine in a postdoctoral fellowship in neuroscience, I was at a point in my career where I loved science and scientific discovery but realized that I didn't want to be at the lab bench producing the data. I did, however, want to do something that would advance the scientific enterprise. I knew I enjoyed the academic setting, and that attracted me to fundraising. I saw that through building relationships with philanthropists, I could ensure that the next generation of science was being produced and supported.
My first exposure to philanthropy came as a Ph.D. candidate at Rockefeller University. As a recipient of the David Rockefeller Fellowship, I saw firsthand what an impact the Rockefeller family's philanthropy had on my own scientific training. So though the nuts and bolts of fundraising were new to me, the transition was very natural, since I'd already been exposed to what transformative philanthropy can do for science.
Prior to the Broad, my career in development spanned Yale School of Medicine and Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University, followed by roles as the Director of Development for Science and Engineering at Yale University as part of the Yale Tomorrow Campaign, and later, a more University-wide role as Deputy Director for International Fundraising, also at Yale.
What attracted you to the role at the Broad?
The Broad Institute is the convergence of transformative philanthropy and transformative science. I'd watched the founding of the Institute from afar and had already seen what transformative philanthropy could do, so it was exciting to contemplate the power of such philanthropy at a place like the Broad, which fills an incredibly unique niche in the ecosystem of groundbreaking genomic and biomedicine. Being able to facilitate that convergence was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.
What did you inherit when you joined the Broad and what was your plan?
Before I arrived, the Broad already had a great track record of philanthropy from remarkably generous donors. I saw an opportunity to solidify our development strategy-specifically our principal gifts fundraising and how we might go about building that.
Our goal was to create a sustainable fundraising model. This involved a concerted effort to widen our community of donors. Because the scientific vision at the Broad is both visionary and focused, it has enabled us to identify a number of philanthropic partners who have helped us realize our goals. It's been amazingly rewarding to build that community of like-minded individuals, who want to transform biomedicine in partnership with the Broad.
What kind of contributions have you been able to make?
Our new BroadIgnite program has been an exciting experiment in incubator philanthropy. This program allows emerging donors-who aren't yet able to make transformative gifts, but who can make smaller contributions and encourage those in their network to do the same-to support emerging scientists.
One of the challenges we face with young, promising scientists is that they don't necessarily have the lengthy track records-and the data-required for more traditional sources of funding. That means we run the risk of never exploring areas of inquiry with great potential. And yet, with just a little bit of seed funding, they can pick up an idea-a potentially transformative idea-and pursue it, and then larger funding can follow. BroadIgnite allows peers to support peers-building not just a community of young philanthropists, but also allowing these philanthropists to contribute to what may become major breakthroughs in science.
It's been a great lesson in the way success isn't always tied to scale but rather, to the way you deploy the capital.
What has been your biggest learning opportunity?
I've learned the power of collaboration both on the scientific level and at the development level. The strong ties we've fostered, and the lines of communication we've developed-not to mention the way we work as a team-allow us to be really nimble and to do things I never imagined. It's been a privilege and an honor to work with someone like Dr. Eric Lander, the lead author of the Human Genome Project and a man of boundless scientific vision.
What are you particularly proud of?
Being a small part of what the Broad has done for psychiatric disease, which was made possible by an unprecedented commitment of $650 million from philanthropist Ted Stanley.
Scientifically, psychiatric disease is still largely not understood, and psychiatric patients have seen very little change in drug treatment options in more than four decades. But last summer, we announced that the Broad Institute had discovered 108 genes implicated in schizophrenia, which are our first clues to the molecular basis of that disease. Now we can look at the pathways connected to those genes, which may be pathways that lead toward the disease itself, and then develop drugs to target those pathways. Philanthropy facilitated all of this.
Participating in the development of a solution that may help millions around the world is very meaningful.
This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity