Professor Q&A: Gregor Henneka

Professor: Gregor Henneka
Class:  Communication, Fundraising and Advocacy

Class Description

What are the basics of communication processes? How to conceptualize, plan, execute and monitor a communication strategy? How to develop and establish appropriate strategic fundraising solutions? What can advocacy achieve? And how are all of these connected to each other?


After 7 1/2 years in different roles at UNICEF’s fundraising headquarters in Geneva, IO-MBA alumni Gregor Henneka (41, class of 2007/08) has been appointed as UNICEF’s new Chief of Private Sector Fundraising for Indonesia – the fourth most populous country in the world with a population of 250 million. Prior to working at UNICEF, Gregor also worked at GIZ, was a senior account manager for the BMW Sauber Formula One Team and held other media-related roles. 


How were you first involved with the IO-MBA Program?

I am an IO-MBA alumni myself, so my first involvement was as a student. On the “other side”, in front of the class, I started getting invited as a guest lecturer in different classes around 2011, to share some personal and professional experience with students on different topics. I also started teaching a fundraising class at the University of Geneva’s “Modern Management for Non-Profit Organizations” certificate programme, and after five successful years there, the IO-MBA management asked me whether I also wanted to teach this class at IO-MBA. Needless to say that I did not have to think twice.

What unique offering do you feel the IO-MBA Program provides?

I have now been working at UNICEF since almost eight years, and there is not a single class that wasn’t relevant to my work here at one point or another. Let me put it this way: The UN tends to recruit technical specialists, which in turn do not necessarily bring the required management skills. At the same time, there are no such positions as “just” general programme or team managers at the UN. So combined with the relevant specialization, the IO-MBA provides exactly these tools and skills that can make a good specialist also a good manager. So many times, when stuck in UN procedures or management issues, I thought “Oh, I wish that person would go study IO-MBA…”

How does it feel transitioning from an IO-MBA student, to alumni, and now professor? Had you thought of teaching before IO-MBA?

Well, as mentioned above, I did teach a similar class at a certificate programme before – which is at the same time similar as well as surprisingly different from the MBA class. Besides “teaching”, I always believed in knowledge sharing, and was happy to contribute what I know. And let’s not forget that a professor also learns a lot from his students, especially at a class with student profiles like IO-MBA. It makes me proud to be one of the people that I regarded highly when I studied IO-MBA myself, but even more importantly it makes me grateful that I can contribute to growing the next IO-MBA generation with what I believe is an important aspect of working in the UN/NGO world, but also as a responsible manager in a company.

What are three pieces of advice you have for students taking your class?

Be ready to be either disappointed (“I had no idea that professional fundraising is so commercial – I thought in the non-profit world the people are all rather nice friendly amateurs trying their best”), or fascinated (“I had no idea that fundraising for non-profits is so professional – I thought in the non-profit world the people are all rather nice friendly amateurs trying their best”). But even if you don’t like it, don’t forget that the fundraisers raise the money that pays your salary. And if you ever want to work in fundraising, start by donating. I am seriously regularly surprised how many people want to work in fundraising but never donated money to anything themselves.

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