For Isabel Scharmer T’00, life is all about building rewarding relationships.
That is her chief philosophy at Bainco, where she works closely with high net worth families to manage their wealth. It’s also a mainstay of Tuck Annual Giving (TAG) which Scharmer now leads as chair.
Since assuming her new role on the committee, Boston-based Scharmer has been busy meeting with and connecting alumni, forming new goals for TAG in conjunction with the staff at Tuck and fellow Executive Committee members, and preparing to speak at the upcoming November 15 Boston alumni event to promote the school’s ongoing capital campaign: The Tuck Difference.
We sat down with Scharmer to learn more about why she volunteers for Tuck, and how she envisions the future of TAG.
Tuck Annual Giving (TAG) comprises several hundred volunteers from every class. Each class typically has at least one head agent and a team of assistant agents. They are responsible for engaging their classmates through their efforts to increase TAG participation and dollars raised. The TAG Executive Committee, which includes 12 alumni leaders including myself, oversees and provides leadership to class agents. The committee also receives support from Director of Annual Giving Cornelia Purcell who serves as staff manager. One of the main roles of the executive committee is to be a sounding board to the staff at Tuck as they develop goals and look to continuously improve the fundraising and communication strategy of TAG. The committee meets monthly by phone and once or twice a year in person. We set goals for the year and check in every month to see how we’re doing. We also share best practices and check in with classes to see if they could use additional resources to increase giving. Every year there is a TAG volunteer conference and the committee is active in setting the agenda for that conference.
One of our primary goals is to maintain TAG’s outstanding participation rate. When it comes to alumni participation in annual giving, Tuck has always stood in a league of its own relative to peer schools. Our goal is to find new ways to engage younger alumni so we continue to maintain our record high giving levels. Another goal I feel strongly about is convincing alums to give earlier in the academic year. We’re seeing a trend where a large portion of gifts happen in June, right at the end of the fiscal year. This creates a lot of stress given the lack of visibility for budgeting and unnecessarily eats up resources at Tuck that could be directed elsewhere. We would love to find ways to get alumni excited about making their gift earlier in the fiscal year. Finally, we’d love to see more alumni participate as TAG volunteers. Those of us who are active in TAG really get a lot of joy and fulfillment from it. We want to nurture an active and engaged community of volunteers that begins during student years.
I’ve been involved with TAG since I graduated—I have been a co-head agent for my class for 18 years, and I’ve spent two terms on the executive committee. I became involved with it somewhat serendipitously and didn’t realize how much I would enjoy it. One of the reasons I really love volunteering is getting to connect and reconnect with people from Tuck. It’s rewarding to be in touch with classmates. I often think as I’m dialing the phone ‘I haven’t talked to this person in years. What are we going to talk about?’ And then they answer the phone and 10 or 15 minutes later I’m hanging up feeling so gratified that I had this connection and conversation with someone. There’s such a common bond. It’s so interesting to see where life takes us as Tuck alums.
As a derivative of that, I love connecting various classmates. I’ll talk to one classmate who is selling a business, or starting a business, or moving to a new place, and I’ll say ‘You know who you should talk to …’ I love connecting two classmates who would have never otherwise talked to each other. That is one of the main missions that we hold dear at TAG. Yes, we’re trying to raise money. But what we’re really doing is trying to keep alumni connected. Our main mission is to keep alumni connected to each other and connected to Tuck as an institution. The fundraising is the vehicle that facilitates that communication.
It’s common for students to feel a strong affinity to the school while they’re on campus. But then, we graduate, we move away, and we get involved with the next phases of life. That makes it easy to feel disconnected from Tuck. When you have those interactions where you do reconnect with the school and alumni, it’s such a powerful reminder that we are all part of this diverse community with a culture. Being involved as a volunteer allows you to have those connections more frequently. Being a volunteer also allows you to stay in-the-know about what’s going on at the school and how its mission and strategy are evolving. That’s exciting. It’s a way to keep that feeling we all had as students alive and well.
I find it very exciting. I think most people who support Tuck give because Tuck changed their lives and they’re grateful for that transformation. We also have an opportunity to make a much bigger impact with our giving dollars. When you hear about The Tuck Difference and the impact that people educated at Tuck have on the world, you feel like it’s such a worthy cause. It’s an amazing way to leverage your charitable dollars. You are helping to educate the wise leaders of tomorrow who are going to not only better the business world, but also all sorts of charitable endeavors as well.
I have a side hustle! My cousin Caroline and I co-founded a women’s shoe company called Divadend Footwear. We wanted to create the kind of dress shoes we were looking for—ones that we could wear all day and all night. We want women to get where they’re going confidently and comfortably. It’s how I satisfy that entrepreneurial spirit that Tuck nurtured. You can check out our shoes at divadend.com.
Interested in volunteering for TAG? Please email Cornelia Purcell. You can also make your gift to Tuck below!