U lays out plans

Kane Loukas

As development staff plan for the year 2000 and beyond, private contributors and their donations represent significant factors in edging the University into the top national rankings.
Still in its preliminary stages, a massive campaign headed by the University Foundation will raise a dollar sum ranging from several hundred million to a billion or more. Expected to start within the next two years, the campaign is forcing the University to focus on its long-term goals.
Input from faculty and administrators will weigh heavily on how development staff plan to use potential contributions, said Gerald Fischer, associate vice president in the Office of Development.
One of the main fund-raising objectives is to boost the University’s national ranking. The 1998 U.S. News and World Report’s survey placed the University in the second tier, which includes public universities ranked between 50th and 100th place overall.
“For this University to achieve excellence and rise to that top-five position, we’re asking ourselves what it is really going to take and what role private support is going to take,” said Linda Berg, a department director in the development office.
Despite rumors and a recent report in CityBusiness, a local journal that pegged the University’s goal at $1 billion, officials said they are unable to name a fund-raising goal just yet because the program is still in its nascent stages.
The 10-digit sum is a popular figure to throw around due to the buzz over the University of Michigan’s eight-year fund-raiser that just finished up with $1.2 billion in contributions. Also in the billion-dollar club are Northwestern University, which launched its $1 billion campaign earlier this year, and the University of Illinois with a program it started in 1995. While a popular trend, raising the big-time cash isn’t easy, development staff said.
“A campaign like this isn’t like turning on a tap and letting the money flow out,” said Dan Saftig, a program director with the University Medical Foundation. It takes time to develop relationships with potential donors and to get people involved with the campus, he said.
While many specific details are still hazy, officials agree this is the time to get another campaign up and running.
“The positive thing here is that there is great momentum with the University and its fund-raising program,” Saftig said in reference to record-level donations in the 1997 fiscal year and a generous allocation from the Legislature.
It has also been more than a decade since the last big fund-raiser, which ran from 1986 to 1988 and pulled together $365 million from private sources. Donors who gave then might be ready to fund the school for a second time, Fischer said.
Despite healthy University finances due to soaring investments and record contribution rates in the last few years, officials justify the fund-raising campaign by saying a large cash influx is essential to improving the University’s performance.
“There continues to be a tremendous need at the University,” said Saftig, adding that most contributions don’t cover basic costs like heat and light bills.
Development staff from University departments and programs will submit case statements, including their goals and the funds needed to reach them. The planning timetable calls for officials to meet by fall 1999 to establish when the plan will be publicly announced.