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Campaign for Virginia Tech Update

Spectrum Volume 18 Issue 21 - February 22, 1996

Campaign for Virginia Tech Update

(Editor's note: In an effort to provide members of the campus community with up-to-date information on the progress of the Campaign for Virginia Tech, Spectrum asked Charles Steger, vice president for development and university relations, to answer some of the questions readers would be most likely to ask about the status of the campaign.)

1. What kind of efforts have been under way on the campaign since the kickoff last September?

During the weekend of the campaign kickoff, we conducted meetings of all the major volunteer committees for the campaign. The committees are Leadership Gifts, Major Gifts for Individuals, Corporate Gifts, and Regional Campaigns. Each of these activities has continued with particular emphasis being placed on planning for the Regional Campaigns which will begin in March of this year. More specifically, we have been expanding the volunteer network in the 38 areas to which the campaign will be taken across the United States during the next 22 months. As you can imagine, this is a significant logistical effort. I am pleased to report that to date the response has been very positive from our volunteers willing to help Virginia Tech reach its goal for the campaign.

2. What is the status of the campaign in terms of dollars raised, and does this represent achieving established goals or target figures for this point in the campaign?

As of Dec. 31, 1995, we have raised $170,500,000 toward the campaign goal of $250 million. This represents 68 percent of our goal. We are very pleased with this progress to date, but it is important to recognize that perhaps the most difficult part has yet to be accomplished. The latter phase of the campaign into which we are now embarking will involve many, many smaller gifts. We have been fortunate to have received 23 gifts of at least $1 million or more. However, as you can imagine, there is a limited number of such gifts and we will be working with donors at levels much below that to secure the remaining $80 million.

Another way of measuring the success of the campaign is not only the total amount of dollars raised, but also whether you are raising money to meet the needs of the university as articulated in our case statement. I am very pleased to say that not only are we making excellent progress toward our goal, but the intention to raise 50 percent of the $250 million, or $125 million, for permanent endowment, as well as goals for student support, professorships, etc., are all very much on target. This is reassuring because these are critical needs for the future of the university.

3. What is the next major phase of the campaign, and what kind of organization or methods will be employed to accomplish the goals of this phase? AND

4. Will there be any visible signs of the campaign during the regional phase, or will all the activity be away from campus? How long will this phase of the campaign continue?

As I noted earlier, the regional campaigns will be the next major phase. Beginning in March with three events in North Carolina on sequential nights and then moving on to Atlanta, we will begin a process of meeting with literally thousands of alumni around the country. Martha O'Neill, who serves as director for the Regional Campaigns, has been working with committees in each of these areas to host events. Depending on the concentration of donors in the area and the particular interest of corporations, a variety of university faculty members, deans, and other administrators will participate. For example, in a city where there is a large concentration of potential donors, we may have staff members there for several days. Therefore, the regional campaign in, for example, Atlanta would be much more than just a reception and presentation. This is a very efficient way to call upon as many donors as possible and expand the number of individuals who support the university.

If I may elaborate, there are many very positive aspects which are generated by the campaign in addition to the contributions by our alumni and friends. One of those is the opportunity to expand the numbers of people who have interaction with Virginia Tech. At present, we have approximately 22 percent of our alumni who contribute to the university. We are hoping that at the end of the regional campaigns we will have expanded that to exceed 30 percent. It is not the size of the gift that is important, but more the opportunity to build a sense of community among our alumni and friends. This translates very practically to assisting our graduates and our alumni with securing job opportunities, with helping us to be in touch with how our alumni around the country perceive the university; and, also, it enables us to share with people the many wonderful things that are being accomplished by our faculty, students, and alumni.

As you can see, the regional campaigns will involve contacts with literally thousands of people. It is going to be quite an undertaking, but I am very much looking forward to it. In fact, I think it will give a new energy to this phase of the campaign.

5. When will the campus phase of the campaign begin, and what form will it take?

The campaign concludes on June 30, 1998. During the 1997-98 academic year, we will carry out the campus phase of the campaign. During the past several years, we have discussed with the presidents of the Faculty Senate the structure and nature of the "family" campaign. The success of this component of our fund-raising activity is important for several reasons. First, of course, is the scholarships and other types of programmatic support that comes from such efforts, but also of importance is the fact that when we are approaching foundations and corporations, one of the pieces of information that is frequently requested is what percentage of the faculty and staff participated in the campaign. Their feeling is that if those who are asking for their support are not willing to invest in their own institution, then their reason to do so is reduced.

It is possible for donors to restrict their contributions for particular purposes within departments or for particular groups of students. When an individual makes a gift of this type, there is a donor agreement which is legally binding by the university to fulfill the donor's wishes in administering funds. To date, we have received more than 52,000 gifts to the campaign. The gifts result from literally thousands of meetings by our staff and our volunteer committees to solicit donors for their support. We find these results to be very encouraging and look forward to an exciting completion of the event. I am convinced that success of the campaign is going to be critical to the success of Virginia Tech in the future, and I am very pleased to have a small part of this endeavor.

6. What will happen to the College of Education's portion of the campaign effort and funds?

Several of our directors for development carry the responsibility for more than one college. There is one person responsible for fund-raising efforts for both the College of Education and the College of Human Resources. Given that these two colleges will be merged, we do not anticipate any difficulty in moving forward to raise funds for both the programs in Education as well as Human Resources. As you know, more than 97 percent of all funds raised are restricted to particular professorships, scholarships, departments, etc. Therefore, we will simply add the two goals together and continue to move forward to assist those colleges in meeting their goals for the Campaign for Virginia Tech.

7. Could you review for the readers how the figure of $250 million was arrived at, and describe some of the major goals the university expects to achieve with the funds from the campaign.

A great deal of planning, both within the university community and with our alumni and friends, has led up to the launching of the Campaign for Virginia Tech. There was a needs assessment committee in the early 1990s chaired by then-Provost E. Fred Carlisle that involved all colleges and major units. Each of these areas was to review what their critical needs were, and place some priority on them. There was a series of college and committee meetings where formal presentations were made. Each college, as well as groups such as Student Affairs, and others, presented what they saw as their goals and attempted to estimate the funding necessary to achieve them. When the requests were totaled for the first time, the needs exceeded $600 million. Simultaneously, our consultants were conducting a feasibility study to determine the readiness of our donors to participate in a major campaign such as this one and to attempt to estimate the level of support we might expect. This study involved personal interviews with 70 people, as well as telephone interviews with more than 300 individuals. In addition, there were a number of focus-group meetings conducted in Virginia and other areas where there were high concentrations of alumni. While these two things were under way, the Development Office was also assessing the capacity of its infrastructure in terms of computing systems, etc., to manage the campaign effectively, as well as reviewing the numbers and ratings of prospects to see if there were sufficient numbers of potential donors to support the campaign goal. Decisions about whether or not to proceed with the campaign and what dates to establish for the campaign if we were to proceed were further complicated by the very tragic illness of President James McComas.

Several conclusions emerged from these various studies. First, our consultants recommended that we pursue a goal of $225 million for the campaign. Our analysis suggested that we had not identified sufficient prospects to support a campaign, even at $225 million at the time. Obviously there was a great deal of work to be accomplished. One activity that took place was the National Resource Program to try to identify additional prospects throughout the United States that would enable us to meet the goal. The National Resource Program was conducted in 68 locations throughout the country and, consequently, we were able to generate enough potential prospects so that we felt comfortable in moving forward with the campaign in its quiet phase. In addition, we saw some improvement in the economy and, having just named Paul Torgersen as the new president, we decided to take a risk and move the campaign goal up to $250 million.

We recognized that, while the goal would be difficult to achieve, certainly the needs of the university were great and we must make every effort to respond to them. Although not without its skeptics, the Campaign Steering Committee reviewed our assessment of the fund-raising environment and their potential for the future and endorsed the goal of $250 million. I could go into a great deal more background information, but I think that gives you a sense of the types of activities that do not receive very much public visibility, but yet are critical to the success of a campaign of this magnitude.