How Do You Achieve Success? It’s All About Relationships

Tracy Mendoza

Tracy Mendoza

Associate Dean for Development and External Relations
USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism

Tracy Mendoza calls herself a “matchmaker,” albeit not the Fiddler on the Roof variety. Instead, she and her team at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism work with individuals and organizations to match them with the areas where they want to make an impact, as determined by school priorities and student/faculty needs.

Tracy’s advancement work began in her student days at Cal State Long Beach—phoning alumni to ask for contributions to the annual fund. She enjoyed building relationships so much that she made it her life’s work.

In her 15 years at USC, Tracy’s career has grown exponentially, which she attributes to her focus on helping others, be they colleagues or donors, achieve their goals. She started at the USC Price School of Public Policy as an associate director of development in the Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy. From there, it was on to USC Annenberg as executive director of development in 2012 before moving up to her current role—associate dean for development and external relations—in 2018.

“My relationships with internal and external partners are what makes it possible for me and my team to consistently exceed goals,” says Tracy.

Tracy recalls an early experience at Annenberg when she and a colleague paid a visit to a longtime USC donor. She asked the donor which of his gifts he believed had made the most impact and why. “I’ll never forget how the donor slowly leaned back in his chair and said, ‘No one has ever asked me that.’ This experience crystalized for me the impact I could have as a fundraiser and leader.”

What Tracy loves about working at USC is the “collegiality and shared purpose. It is truly rewarding,” she says, “to work with my colleagues across departments, schools and within USC Annenberg to advance the crucial initiatives that truly impact our students’ lives and the professions they aspire to.” 

Experienced fundraiser that she is, Tracy offers three principal tips for those who want to grow their careers at USC Advancement:

First, network. “Get to know the different teams and functions across the division and within the schools. Ask people for short, informal interviews. When I’m hiring or promoting, I always remember the people who took the time to introduce themselves.”

Second, trust the process. “It works! Pound the pavement, make the calls, send the emails. Don’t make assumptions; have the conversations.”

Lastly, trust your gut. “Know your core values and make sure that the team you join aligns with them.”

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