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Wits is where my heart lies

- By Kemantha Govender

Peter Bezuidenhoudt, the new Director of the Development and Fundraising Office (DFO) has returned to Wits as he wants to play his part in crafting a successful, thriving and sustainable university. 

A key part of this will be supporting key initiatives that drive a more postgraduate-centric and research intensive University. He wants to achieve these goals by continuing to inform people and corporates that Wits is a “fantastic story to invest in”. 

Having started his new role in mid-January 2015, Bezuidenhoudt is adamant that the University will look for new donors but also take care of its existing ones. He recognises that funding is about the people who give to Wits as much as it is about their money. Bezuidenhoudt wants to ensure that donors are kept informed about how their money is positively impacting on research and other initiatives at the University.

“We have to identify the core projects that the University needs to raise funds for and need to prioritise these undertakings. To do so we need to develop crisper ‘donor products’ with a clear understanding of the potential benefits for donors as well as the financial models behind them. This will make it much simpler communicate as well as to customise offerings for particular donors,” said Bezuidenhoudt.

Fundraising efforts will be geared towards securing endowed chairs, postgraduate studies, postdoctoral opportunities and research projects from the four major donor areas in which relationships have to be prioritised and actively cultivated: trusts and foundations, corporates, high net worth individuals and other government funding sources, aside from existing subsidy streams.

“There is no way this office is going to do all the fundraising and it never will. We need to it assist everyone so that fundraising is done professionally within a University-wide framework.”

Bezuidenhoudt praised the recent Students’ Representative Council’s (SRC) initiative, the 1 Million 1 Month campaign, which aims to raise funds for students who need financial support because of the National Students’ Financial Aid Scheme shortage.  

“It has been a fantastic initiative by the SRC. However, we need to open more channels for campaigns around student funding for this to happen throughout the year”.

Having previously worked and studied at the University, Bezuidenhoudt’s rhetoric on Wits is pervaded only by pride. “I am extremely excited to be in this position, being at Wits makes me proud and my job is fun.”

From 2000 to July 2007, he was the Director of Marketing and Communications at Wits, as well as the founder and CEO of Wits Enterprise. Prior to this he was the founding CEO of the Milpark Business School. He started his career working in various capacities for Sasol, Standard Bank and Vodacom. Since leaving Wits he has worked as the director of executive search at Mindcor, managing director of Resolve Endeavour Consulting – a leadership development consultancy – and as the education sector investment lead for Metier Private Equity – which culminated in the purchase of the IMM Group. He was the initial post-acquisition CEO of the group. He has also been a marketing consultant to Wits Business School, with the core responsibility of driving academic student number growth. He is a Wits Chemical Engineering and MBA graduate and also holds a BCom from Unisa.

Bezuidenhoudt left Wits in July 2007 because he met the goals that he had set for himself and felt the need to acquire new skills and experience in different sectors. He considers himself to be fortunate to have been exposed to a wide range of diverse organisations, industry sectors and career paths. 

“I have occupied a number of interesting and challenging positions since then and have gained excellent experience, but none of them have been as fulfilling as the seven and a half years that I spent at Wits. Wits is the place that brings me deep satisfaction and it is where I want to apply my energies,” he said.

He is unreserved in his belief that Wits will become a leading force on the continent following its impact on Johannesburg and South Africa.

Bezuidenhoudt said the golden thread in his career has been developing, positioning and selling “investment cases” to get people to believe in and support the diverse organisations. “Now is the appropriate time to harness this experience to grow an exceptional fundraising team at Wits.”