University's considering its goals its focus for major fundraising push

University's considering its goals its focus for major fundraising push

URBANA – University of Illinois graduates, expect your alma mater to come calling a year from now.

Seven years after the university closed out a billion-dollar fundraising campaign, the UI will launch another major campaign.

State aid has not kept up with the university's financial needs. Campus buildings could use more than just a fresh coat of paint. Universities around the country are competing to attract and keep top faculty. Plus, students need help to pay for college as tuition and fees continue to climb.

In September, in conjunction with the dedication of the new Doris Kelley Christopher Hall, several hundred volunteer fundraising leaders, including alumni and corporate partners from across the country, will meet in Urbana to learn more specifics about the campaign and plan for its launch.

A financial goal has not been set yet, said Jim Gobberdeil, director of marketing and communications for the University of Illinois Foundation.

The last universitywide campaign, which began in 1993 and ended in 2000, brought in $1.53 billion. Before that, the UI ran a campaign in the late 1970s and early 1980s that raised $137 million.

This campaign will launch officially June 1, 2007, in Chicago and will close in 2011, Gobberdeil said.

Organizers have not set priorities yet for the campaign, but there has been a lot of interest in endowed faculty chairs, Gobberdeil said.

"We need to involve each campus, the major units, the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, the myriad departments. We want to be sure if we're out raising money we've identified specific priorities of the academe," said Craig Bazzani, vice president for advancement at the UI Foundation.

As fundraisers meet with donors, it's important they can explain the UI's needs and the urgency to donate now, Bazzani said.

Why launch in June 2007? By then, key leaders on campus will have some time under their belt, and leadership is critical to any campaign. In June 2007, UI President B. Joseph White and Chancellor Richard Herman will have been in their positions for more than two years. And the deans for the College of Engineering and the College of Education will have been in their positions for about a year. The UI also expects to hire a dean for the College of Fine and Applied Arts this year.

On all three UI campuses, various units are putting the final touches on strategic plans, Bazzani added. Those plans will help determine the major "thrusts" of the campaign, he said.

Up and running

Although this will be the first major university campaign in several years, two Urbana units already have run their own major fundraising campaigns in recent years. Both have good news to report.

The College of Business launched a $75 million campaign in March 2004 and has raised about $70 million; the three-year campaign is set to expire in June 2007. The library started its $30 million campaign in October 2003 and will close it by early 2009. Donations total about $22 million so far.

"Alumni have stepped up very well and are excited about this initiative," said Tina Howard, assistant dean of development with the College of Business.

The College of Business set a goal to raise $32 million for the new Business Instructional Facility, which will cost of $64 million. The rest of the money from the campaign will be for endowed chairs, student scholarships, research fellowships and other initiatives.

The college expects to meet the goal a year early, but that won't mean it will stop working: "It will still be exciting. We won't go out of that campaign mode," Howard said.

What has helped the College of Business campaign are donations from four major accounting firms, plus two anonymous donors who pledged $7.5 million each.

The library campaign is driven by three priorities: increasing its collections, including acquisitions and preservation; faculty support; and tending to its facilities, said Lyn Jones, senior director of development for the library.

For its campaign, the library partnered with the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, which is helping fund the renovations of the Undergraduate Library. It also helped raise $100,000 through the sale of orange wristbands during basketball season.

And with help from the Mellon Foundation, the library will dedicate a new book preservation lab this fall.

The national picture

As part of the UI Foundation's strategic plan, there will be more of a push to develop partnerships with corporations, such as how the College of Business reached out to the major accounting firms, and with private foundations, as the library did with the Mellon Foundation.

By 2011, the university also expects to rank among top public universities in private support, according to the strategic plan.

Nationally, contributions to higher education increased 4.9 percent in 2005, according to an annual survey by the Rand Corporation's Council for Aid to Education.

According to the Rand survey, the top fundraisers in 2005 were Stanford University with $604 million, the University of Wisconsin at Madison with $595 million and Harvard with $590 million. Others in the top rankings included Penn, Cornell, Columbia, Southern Cal, Johns Hopkins, Indiana and the University of California at San Francisco.

Although colleges and universities are seeing an increase in the total amount of donations, the actual number of donors is declining.

"The decrease in participation is a trend across the nation," Howard said.

About 9 percent, or 4,500, of the UI College of Business' 50,000 alumni donate to the college, she said.

Universitywide, alumni participation is 11 percent to 12 percent. Other universities, like Wisconsin and Michigan, have a rate closer to 15 percent.

UI fundraisers said they want to step up their efforts to reach out to donors, including using e-mail solicitations and newsletters.

The library has relied heavily on prior donors, Jones said. But this year it has also, for the first time, reached out to faculty members who use the library's collections for research.

"And we want to get younger alumni before they get out of school," said Howard, who cited the recent formation of the Young Alumni Giving Society and senior class and MBA class gift projects.

Symbol still a concern

So what about the Chief?

As the University of Illinois prepares to launch a major fundraising campaign, what effect, if any, will the Chief Illiniwek controversy have?

"We have had donors who have indicated they would reduce or curtail their giving because of the Chief issue," said Jim Gobberdeil, director of marketing and communications for the UI Foundation.

Just what kind of donors are we talking about? Some are substantial, others are modest, and others have never donated to the UI, Gobberdeil said.

"We're not dealing with any large quantity (of complaints or threat). It's something that concerns us. It's something we need to be aware of and deal with," Gobberdeil said.

The foundation forwards information and opinions it receives on the Chief to the UI Board of Trustees' office.

People who give to the campaigns by and large do so because they are loyal to the school and they want to support students and faculty and programs, Gobberdeil said. If the trustees decide to discontinue or retire the Chief, "We would expect some people to be disheartened enough not to give, but time heals all wounds."

When Miami (Ohio) University discontinued the Redskins nickname in 1996, some people said they would never give to the university again, said Claire Wagner, director of news and publications there, but the school did not notice a decrease.

Miami later adopted the RedHawk as its symbol.

"It's unclear whether or not there was any effect (on donations)," said Pam Young, director of communication with Eastern Michigan, which dropped its Huron Indian mascot and replaced it with an eagle in 1991.

Some studies have indicated a slight drop in giving for the first year or two after a school retires a mascot, but could you tie it to mascot? Or was it tied to the economy for that year? It's hard to say, Young said.

"We've had very good years in terms of gifts," said Kathy Fuller, assistant vice president of university relations at Bradley University.

Bradley, whose athletic teams are called the Braves, has not had American Indian imagery since 1988 and no logo since 1990. The school, which is not on the NCAAlist of institutions with hostile or abusive imagery, has not seen any fundraising effect in recent years, she said.


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