Matt Cain is a good listener.
Name: Matt Cain
Position: Director of development, Advancement
Time at the Gillings School: One year and three months
What I do at UNC Gillings (and why I love it): I’m a fundraiser. It’s funny – so many people have misconceptions about what my job involves. I often hear, “It must be so hard to ask people for money every day,” but what I actually do is show alumni how the passions they already have can make an incredible difference at UNC.
Here’s the real deal: I can’t make people do anything they don’t want to do, and I would never want to talk a person into something that doesn’t feel right to them. People are on a philanthropic journey, and our job as fundraisers is to work with them along their path. Instead of talking, my main task is to listen. I meet with alumni and other supporters, ask questions that help me identify their passions, and then let them know about things happening around the School that link up with those interests. My work isn’t about the dollar amount of a gift, but rather the chance to address a need in public health and strengthen our School while advancing the causes that matter to a donor. Their giving will follow their timeline, not ours, and be based on their passions, not ours! Everyone at the School plays a part in this team working toward a common good.
Honestly, I didn’t really understand what public health was before I came to the Gillings School. I’d always cared about and been interested in the environment, health disparities, how diseases spread and the basics of good nutrition, but I didn’t realize how these and other fields all fit together until I began this job. One thing I love about working at UNC Gillings is that it’s a daily educational opportunity for me. I meet amazing people within the School and across the country and get to hear story after story about how they are making the world better. I also feel like working here is a way for me personally to make a difference. I can’t do the research and I don’t have the money to fund a huge project… but I can help connect those who can with those who do!
Outside the office: I like to stay active! I’m recently married, and my wife and I do a lot of cardio interval training together at the gym. (One of my quirks is that I’m pretty proud of my low resting heart rate – my beats per minute are in the 40s. Once, when I was getting my wisdom teeth removed, I tried to see how low I could get my heart rate on the monitor before the anesthesia kicked in. Needless to say, the nurses weren’t very happy with me!)
Anyway, I also like road cycling and I love golf. I play at Finley [UNC’s golf course] fairly often. I’m always looking for new partners to play with, and because I enjoy playing more than I’m actually good at it, you don’t have to worry about losing any money to me!
Something I’ve always cared about: is dressing well. I grew up reading men’s magazines like GQ and I always thought a suit and tie seemed way cooler than baggy pants. In fifth grade, my grandparents gave me my first pair of cufflinks, and I still have them to this day. [Editor’s note: The person who nominated Matt shared another interesting fact about him – he has three dresser drawers devoted to his stylish sock collection!]
Yeah, I think I get this trait from my mother. She imparted two bits of advice that I’ve always held onto: 1) You only get one chance at a first impression, and 2) You should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. Back when I was a college football coach [for five years at Presbyterian College], I was the only person in the Athletic Department who wore a tie to work every single day. I wanted to make a difference for the young men on my team, and I tried to lead by example and build a culture of, “Look good, play good.”
I’m originally from: Apex, North Carolina. That’s where I was born, anyway. We moved around a bit, so I really claim South Carolina as home. I was in N.C. long enough, though, that I have fond memories of Triangle college football rivalries. My dad was the offensive coordinator for the North Carolina State University football team, and I got to sit right on the sidelines during games. It’s true, I grew up a State fan! When I applied for this job at UNC, my dad wasn’t too thrilled, but my mom said, “You’d be lucky to get a call back!”
Here’s a funny story from my childhood: When I was in fourth grade, I grew too fast and developed a knee condition. For more than a year, I couldn’t put any real impact on my knees because my body had stretched so quickly that my bones were brittle. I’m 6’3’’ [and a half!] now, and happy to say that my body finally worked things out. I ended up having to switch from basketball and baseball to swimming during elementary and middle school because of those knee issues, but I got back into football later and played for Furman University.
If I could have anyone on the world as a dinner guest: I’d pick my mom and dad. I don’t see them enough since moving to Chapel Hill – they’re back in S.C. – and I really value every minute I get with them. They’re given me lots of great advice over the years, and I try to make them proud in everything I do. Also, we just have a lot of fun together!
If they came over, I’d definitely make them biscuits. I love cooking, and biscuits are my latest endeavor. I’m not up to Bojangles’ quality yet, but I’m on the way! [You can see several of Matt’s other cooking experiments on Instagram @cainmatt.]
Above (top, left and right): Matt volunteers at the Masters Golf Tournament with his dad, smiles with his mom and proudly displays his homemade biscuits.
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