December 19th, 2019

Board Member Profile: Jim Mazza Finds Niche on Community Foundation Board


Jim Mazza grew up in Ithaca, attended Cornell, and then spent 29 years working in fundraising and alumni affairs at the university. After he began a phased retirement in 2018, he decided to join Community Foundation’s Board of Directors last January.

“It seemed like a natural step to me because I grew up here,” Mazza said. “It felt very personal.”

While learning more about Community Foundation’s impact in Tompkins County over the past year, Mazza has put his skills to work as a member of the Development and Community Relations Committee and as co-chair of Community Foundation’s 20th Anniversary Steering Committee.

At Cornell, one of Mazza’s main accomplishments was overseeing a 110-member team in the colleges and units that supported the Cornell Now! Campaign, which raised a record-breaking $6.3 billion over a ten-year period, ending in 2015. The campaign, which boosted student financial aid, created new professorships and funded new buildings on campus, was one of the largest fundraising efforts in the history of higher education.

Mazza had previously co-led another fundraising initiative at Cornell that generated $227 million in new gifts for the university’s undergraduate scholarship endowment. “That was very meaningful to me because I attended Cornell in part on financial assistance and scholarships,” said Mazza, a first-generation college student.

What Mazza learned from his development experience at Cornell is that any organization, whether it’s a nonprofit or a university, can successfully raise money if it defines what the campaign will achieve.

“The success of any campaign is a clear vision for what can be accomplished, what could be made possible that would otherwise not happen, and how this kind of investment will lead to improving the world or the local community,” Mazza said. “If you tell the story of an organization well and talk about what the campaign will accomplish, then success inevitably will follow.”

Near the end of the Cornell Now! Campaign, Mazza became associate vice president for alumni affairs. In that position, he led a team whose efforts engaged nearly 100,000 Cornell alumni annually.

Since he began his phased retirement last year, Mazza has been working as a senior advisor for campaign operations and is helping colleagues develop Cornell’s next major fundraising campaign.

Mazza said the strategies he used in fundraising for Cornell can apply to the work of Community Foundation. “What Community Foundation is making possible is investment in the community that otherwise wouldn’t happen,” he said. “Community Foundation provides a way to help individuals realize their own philanthropic aspirations, or even realize that they have philanthropic aspirations.”


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