Alumni Spotlight: Amber Bielby, MAM 2001

Nov 28, 2012

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Amber Bielby (MAM 2001) was recently named Capital Campaign Manager for the Guildhall School for Music & Drama in London.  We caught up with Amber to talk about this important and prestigious position as well as her experience and education at Heinz College and the Masters of Arts Management Program.

Heinz College: Describe the process of acquiring your position.

Amber Bielby: I am currently leading the £13.5 million Campaign for Milton Court at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama. The campaign supports the completion of new world-class performing arts venues and training facilities in the heart of the City of London.  In order to acquire my role as Capital Campaign Manager, I had to demonstrate success managing multi-million pound capital campaigns, working closely with campaign boards of senior volunteers and securing six- and seven-figure donations.

Since 1997, I have spent my career building a considerable portfolio of skills, experience and success which has led me to where I am today. The breadth of my fundraising includes: annual fund appeals, corporate sponsorships and partnerships, trusts and foundations, major donors, legacies, event development and management as well as donor stewardship. Underpinning these activities is, of course, database and information management and research, which I have designed and implemented at several organizations.

Before taking my role at the Guildhall School, I was privileged to work on both the Galleries of Modern London campaign (£20.5 million) at the Museum of London and the First World War Galleries: Centenary Campaign (£35 million) at the Imperial War Museum. These two capital campaigns provided the solid foundation from which I have developed my strategies and donor development plans for the Campaign for Milton Court.


HC: What roles and responsibilities do you perform on a regular basis?

AB: Unlike traditional fundraising roles which have a specific portfolio (e.g. major donors, corporations or trusts), leading a capital campaign requires a fundraiser to take on all the roles within a development office. Whether I’m working with senior volunteers to secure principal gifts, negotiating corporate partnerships, developing and implementing events or writing trust applications – each day brings something completely new and, most likely, challenging.


HC: How is your Heinz College experience impacting your workplace performance?

AB: Before undertaking the MAM program, I completed a business degree at Michigan State University. Although I had extensive business education, I did not have the opportunity to apply my knowledge and experience in a non-profit context. The curriculum at the Heinz College allowed me to explore non-profit management more broadly and, with the MAM program, the arts specifically.

One of the best features of the Heinz College is the combination of both theoretical study and practical application. When I graduated, I was prepared for a career in arts management from day one. Indeed, my first role after Heinz was working in the development office at Ballet Tech in New York and one of my first projects was redesigning the fundraising database. Without the database theory course, I could not have diagnosed and redesigned the system. Today, I use every aspect of my Heinz education from fundraising and marketing to governance and management.


HC: What do you consider to be the most vital piece of your Heinz College education? Why?

AB: As a fundraising professional, I would have to say the most vital pieces of my Heinz education were the Fundraising Fundamentals and Grants, Sponsorships & Private Gifts courses paired alongside my fundraising apprenticeship at Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre (PBT).

When I was at Heinz, the Fundraising Fundamentals course was taught by Mary Ellen Miller, currently the Vice President of Donor Relations at the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. At the time, Mary Ellen was the Director of Development at PBT. It was a real advantage to learn fundraising theory in my first year and then spend my second year watching that theory in action at Mary Ellen’s side.


HC: In your opinion, what are some strengths of the MAM program at Heinz College that continue to impact your professional trajectory?

AB: One of the key strengths of the MAM program is its unique integration of the arts with both business/corporate and non-profit education. As the program connects the College of Fine Arts and the Heinz College, students are exposed to the passion and practicality that are inherent in arts management. As I have progressed in my career, courses that focused on governance and management have come in to play quite strongly and will continue to do so.

In addition, as the MAM program has expanded to include an international dimension, the program now provides a distinct insight into the arts and how the sector is managed around the world. As an American in London, this means that the MAM program (as a brand) is more recognizable in Europe and, therefore, will have an impact on my reputation abroad.


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