By Sam Gringlas, Daily Staff Reporter
Published May 29, 2013
Over the last few months, University administrators and the University’s Board of Regents have welcomed several multi-million dollar donations — the $110 million donation from Charles Munger to build a graduate residence hall and the $50 million from the Zell Family Foundation to endow the Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing broke records for University and LSA giving respectively.
But the University’s rallying cry for philanthropic action has yet to officially commence.
After months of planning and two years of courting preliminary donors, University officials are set to launch the next capital campaign Nov. 8.
In April, an army of campaign leaders and volunteers— as well as students, faculty and outgoing and incoming provosts Phil Hanlon and Martha Pollack, respectively— met in preparation for November’s kickoff.
At the meeting, real estate mogul and University alum Stephen Ross announced he would chair the campaign although he extended an open invitation for a co-chair to join him.
Tom Baird, assistant vice president of campaign strategy at the University, said a chair serves as the campaign’s “top volunteer,” providing a public persona, bringing leaders together and solidifying the campaign’s brand.
While the University has found its top volunteer, scores more are needed to run a successful campaign — and many of them have already assumed a ready position. Baird said volunteers are crucial in any capital campaign as they form committees, bolster the University’s network of connections, serve on regional committees and tell the University’s story.
In essence, Baird said, volunteers are ambassadors for the University.
“They serve as examples of people that are giving back and having an impact,” Baird said. “They tell the story that Michigan is important to support and endorsing what people can achieve with the University of Michigan through their giving. They can have a real impact on the world.”
In framing the campaign, University administrators have set a list of focus areas for giving, which Baird said would focus less on infrastructure projects than its predecessor, The Michigan Difference, which ended in 2008 and raised $3.2 billion.
The campaign’s highest priority will be extending greater financial aid to University students.
Additionally, the University hopes to focus on projects to extend classroom learning into real world experiences that could develop students’ global views or entrepreneurial spirits, for example.
Pollack said the University also intends to use gifts toward public good, centering around four areas: human and environmental health, poverty and inequality, sustainable transportation and K-12 education.
“The University’s a great platform to have impact,” Baird said. “It’s a very collaborative institution. It’s a place where if you want to have an impact in any area of human endeavor, Michigan can probably help you realize your passions by supporting people doing the hard work that are the best in the world.”
In a February interview, University President Mary Sue Coleman told The Michigan Daily the campaign must showcase the power of giving in the lives of students and faculty.
“We need to fashion this in a way donors can get excited about the difference they can make in people’s lives so a lot of this will be storytelling about what students have done and what the impact of having various scholarships has been,” Coleman said.
Baird said University Communications Director Lisa Rudgers would likely play a role in not only the branding of the campaign, but also help to effectively disseminate the University’s narrative to donors. While strategies often remain constant across campaigns, the upcoming project would include a greater web presence and emphasis on social media.
In addition, Baird said telling the University’s story to potential donors takes on greater importance as other universities compete for donors’ dollars. With the end of the 2009 recession, Baird said more public universities have begun launching campaigns. Campaigns by large private institutions like Stanford — which raised $6.2 billion — have brought in billions of dollars.
With roughly five months before the campaign launches, campaign organizers are continuing to set goals and organize volunteers. The campaign’s name, fundraising goal and end date have yet to be set, along with the campaign’s role in the University’s upcoming bicentennial.
Development officials will also continue to raise money for the campaign’s Nucleus Fund — gifts collected in advance of a campaign’s launch. Since July 2011, the University has gathered one billion dollars in donations.
With the latest capital campaign yet to begin, this total is far from final.