Cultivating support: Q&A with Eric Barritt, chief development officer

July 12, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership,

Eric Barritt began in his role as Michigan Medicine’s chief development officer a little more than two years ago. With philanthropy becoming an increasingly important resource for advancing patient care, education and research, Headlines recently caught up with Barritt to discuss his office’s role within the organization and the projects it is helping to facilitate.

Here’s what he had to say:

Q: How does development support the strategic priorities of Michigan Medicine?

Barritt: Everything we do as a development team is in support of Michigan Medicine’s mission and strategic priorities. We partner closely with faculty and staff to thoroughly understand their needs, develop a case for support and cultivate a pipeline of philanthropic support at all levels — including annual gifts, major gifts, planned gifts, corporate and foundation support, and more. We have incredible teams of dedicated people who focus on these different levels of giving and what it takes to grow our philanthropy support. Our goal is to ensure we get the funding necessary to make an impact.

Q: Philanthropy is an increasingly critical pillar of support for Michigan Medicine. How does philanthropy directly support faculty, staff, students and patients?

Barritt: Recent proposed funding cuts, especially at the federal level, can have wide-reaching implications on the research and innovation coming out of the Michigan Medicine community. That’s one reason why philanthropic support is so critical. Much of the funding we secure is designated to support research for a specific disease or health care area.

To date, through the Victors for Michigan campaign, Michigan Medicine has raised more than $650 million to support research. We also secure funding for programmatic support including for patient care, faculty and student support in the form of endowed professorships and scholarships, enhancements to our facilities and other areas critical to achieving Michigan Medicine’s three-part mission of patient care, research and education.

Q: What new initiatives, projects or gifts are you most excited about?

Barritt: Gifts of any size have proven to make a difference in the organization. Contributions to Michigan Medicine through the Victors for Michigan campaign already have exceeded $1.1 billion and we have had a record year in fundraising with more than $206 million in pledge commitments. Last year we received 30,000 gifts, the overwhelming majority of which were $1,000 or less. Every one of those dollars is essential to keeping Michigan Medicine a world-class health care destination for generations to come.

Another campaign that has drawn on the incredible support of our community is Giving Blueday. Last year, we raised nearly $1.4 million from more than 1,400 generous individuals. Many of these gifts were specifically given to support Michigan Medicine.

Recent major gifts will also make a transformative impact on the organization and the patients we serve. Among them is a commitment of $17.5 million — the largest private donation for cancer research in the school’s history — from Madeline and Sidney Forbes to create the Forbes Institute for Cancer Discovery within the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center. The Eisenberg family recently made a $10.75 million gift to support depression research, and soon after, the World Heritage Foundation-Prechter Family Fund committed up to $5 million to support bipolar disorder research. Both gifts will help fight the stigma associated with mental illness.

Q: If employees are interested in giving back to the organization, what is the most effective way for them to do so?

Barritt: We welcome support in whatever way feels right for the individual. Our website highlights ways to give and get involved. Other than Giving Blueday, perhaps one of the most straightforward ways to give back is through faculty, staff and retiree giving. You can make a one-time gift or gifts over time through payroll deduction. Information can be found at Since the start of the Victors for Michigan campaign, nearly 30 percent (more than 9,000 individuals) of the Michigan Medicine community have raised almost $41.5 million to support U-M. Employees also can host fundraising events. In fact, we have a toolkit on our website that includes most of what is needed to plan what we call a “community fundraiser,” whether it’s organizing a 5K run or hosting a golf outing.

Q: Finally, have you found anything surprising in your position? What has been the most satisfying part of the job and what has been the most challenging?

Barritt: I worked at U-M prior to leading the Michigan Medicine development team. I knew Michigan Medicine was large, but the scope of services and the standard of excellence we set in so many areas never ceases to amaze me.

Serving as a member of the Michigan Medicine community is deeply satisfying for many reasons, not the least of which is that I have family members who were or are being treated at Michigan Medicine for serious concerns. Many of us in the Office of Development, and throughout campus, have similar connections to the work of Michigan Medicine and all of us feel connected to its mission.

Perhaps one of the most challenging aspects of my job is remaining strategically focused in the work we do while knowing there are so many unmet needs. The most important thing we can do is keep making progress toward our end goal of improving our health care through philanthropy.