The Era of the Perpetual Capital Campaign rolls right along with last week’s announcement that Western Carolina University wants to raise $60 million by early next year. (It’s already three quarters of the way to its goal.)
WCU is hardly the only North Carolina university that’s neck deep in a formal money-raising effort. Here are some of the others:
• UNC-Chapel Hill announced last fall that it wants to raise $4.25 billion-with-a-B by the end of 2022. UNC is closing in on the $2 billion mark. (If $4.25 billion seems like a lot, you'd be right: It's the second-largest capital campaign among public U.S. universities.)
• N.C. State University is three-fourths of the way to its $1.6 billion goal. Its self-imposed deadline is the end of 2021.
• Wake Forest University beat its initial goal of $625 million so it extended its campaign (to 2020) and increased its target (to an even $1 billion). The Winston-Salem school recently passed the $800 million mark.
• Greensboro College has raised $14 million on the way to its goal of $15 million. The college’s deadline is mid-2020.
• N.C. A&T hasn’t publicly announced its campaign yet, but the university has raised nearly $56 million as of February. The in-house goal is $85 million, but that might change when the university goes public with its campaign. The word I get from A&T is that this will happen sometime in the fall.
• Elon University’s last capital campaign wrapped up in 2011 so the school is long overdue for a new one. New President Connie Book confirmed when she visited the N&R last month that Elon has a campaign in progress, but she didn’t disclose a target. The last Elon campaign raised $107 million. This new one will raise … more, probably. (A bold prediction, I know.)
• UNCG is still trying to hire a new vice chancellor for university advancement to take charge of fundraising. The first thing that person probably will do after getting an office key and a UNCG ID will be to start working on a capital campaign. UNCG’s last campaign ended in 2009 after raising $115 million.
It's not surprising that all of these universities are trying to raise all of this money. This recent Inside Higher Ed story notes a couple of reasons:
Colleges and universities have gotten more serious about planning for major fund-raising campaigns over the years. Supply and demand have ratcheted up as well, with recent gains in the stock market leaving donors feeling flush and ready to give at the same time as many public universities are seeking ways to make up for stagnant or falling state support. …
(But) experts warn against attributing the recent glut of big-dollar goals to current conditions.
“It’s hard to point to a causal factor,” said David Bass, senior director of research at the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. “What you’re seeing with these announcements is the culmination of years, literally, of very careful planning, analysis and consensus building.”
That includes planning for a particular campaign, as colleges and universities spend years conducting market research, reaching out to wealthy donors and operating in silent phases before they ever publicly announce fund-raising campaigns. It also includes prior campaigns themselves."
Here’s the kicker (emphasis mine): "'A single public fund-raising campaign is not just about raising money immediately,' Bass said. 'It is also about cultivating donors for future campaigns.'"
In other words, universities are always looking ahead to their next campaign even if they have one in progress. In fact, as this Inside Philanthropy story notes, perpetual fundraising is the new normal in higher ed:
Remember when capital campaigns were all about new buildings and actually had end dates? Well, those days are over, according to a new survey of nearly 600 fundraising professionals, mostly in higher education.
Instead, campaign fundraising has become an endeavor that is either ongoing or about to be initiated, said more than 80 percent of survey respondents, leaving fundraisers perpetually in campaign mode.
If you're wondering why your college never stops calling, that's why.
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