Day in Life,  Professional Development

Day in Life – Covid-19 Edition – Cynthia Khoo-Robinson

There’s so much to say about Cynthia. We met through the AFP Cincinnati Mentoring Program and she’s been an amazing mentor to me ever since. She introduced me to higher ed donor relations and stewardship, which was exactly what I needed at the time to become a more well-rounded fundraiser.

The photo on the right is the Cincy gang at ICON 2018 in New Orleans. Thank you, Cynthia, for always having my back and sharing your new found routine with us!


Cynthia Khoo-Robinson, CFRE, Associate Vice President of Alumni Engagement & Annual Giving at University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York, USA

Cynthia has more than 30+ years experience raising money for mission-driven institutions and causes, and is higher ed fundraising pro. She is a CFRE, a past board member of the AFP Cincinnati Chapter, and a CASE speaker.

From Cynthia:

Pre Covid-19: I look at my phone and scan my emails, text and WhatsApp as soon as I get up. I try not to get lost in it (which I sometimes have done) as causes me to be late in leaving the house).

I Face Time my husband every morning for our drive into work (between 7:30 – 8 a.m.) and every evening, as we live in two different city and state. I get my coffee in the office and start into my emails or conversations with my staff right away. I am in meetings most of the day with hardly much down time to think and prep. Thank goodness for a great team, my #2 and my Executive Assistant who help me stay on point, as I go from one meeting to the next.

I spend my days in planning meetings with different teams: annual giving, alumni engagement (regional, young alumni, signature events, life-long learning), major gift officers, campus partners, Deans, Alumni Board president, etc.  I have meetings with the Executive Team every Monday morning in North Campus (my office is in South Campus). Lunch is usually at my desk, many times late and hurried. I usually stay late to take care of emails and prep work for meetings the next day and usually work until 6 – 7 and sometimes 8 or 9 p.m. If I end my day in North Campus, I then get home early (as I live closer to that campus). I get dinner at a decent time and then I hop back online to answer emails or prep for meetings.

PreCovid-19, I was traveling a lot. I would be in the office a few days a week, every other week or so. We have alumni all over the country and the world. I represent the university and attend as many in-person events as I can. I was in airports more than in my office until now ☹.

Current Situation with Covid-19: As is the case all over the world, we are practicing self-distancing and I have been telecommuting since March 18. I keep a routine of waking up around the same time (actually can sleep for ½ hour longer since I don’t need to drive to the office). I scan my emails and text messages quickly, hop in the shower, fix my hair, apply make-up and get dressed (Business Casual) and I’m online by 8 a.m. The day is filled with Zoom meetings, back-to-back. We are also using Skype for Business and I love the quick chats via text or video. The quick video chats make it feel as if we are popping into each other’s office.

Video conferencing has been fantastic and has helped to curtail the feeling of isolation.  But having back-to-back meetings have been draining. In the beginning, we needed to communicate a lot: encouraging social distancing, cancelling in-person events, developing guidelines for telecommuting. As we settle into our new norm, we are learning to schedule breaks in between. Technology is fantastic and the positive outcome of having the whole office work remotely has allowed everyone to get comfortable with video conferencing. It will be a new way of working even when we return to the office. We will be more efficient with this new way of meeting instead of driving between campuses (we have 3 campuses here) and going to different buildings (especially in the blustery winter).

As we continue to stay in isolation, we have to continue with our work. Our Major Gift Officers are finding it easier to connect with their donors/prospects as everyone is at home. Some are even having video chats with their donors. Our Annual Giving team has to develop a new focus as we postpone/cancel all mailings, Giving Days and phonathon. Alumni Engagement is ramping up virtual engagement – offering webinars, virtual happy hours, book clubs and online community for mentoring and socializing.

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