USF won’t hold back on fundraising

Economic clout left USF wondering if it should continue a massive fundraising campaign that began nearly four years ago.

Tuesday night showed the University’s decision: move forward.

The “USF: Unstoppable Campaign” hopes to raise $600 million to fund the University’s academic enhancements, capital, faculty, scholarships, and miscellaneous budgets, according to the campaign’s report.

It’s much better to keep going than to draw back, said Les Muma, chair of the Unstoppable Campaign.

“Once you lose momentum, in my opinion, you never get it back,” Muma said. “We are unstoppable and this economy is going to turn. We go through cycles. We’ve always gone through cycles.”

USF hosted an event to kickoff the campaign Tuesday in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom where representatives from colleges and school organizations met with alumni, donors and potential donors.

USF President Judy Genshaft spoke at the event and said though the economy has been slow it is important for USF to move forward with this campaign.

“This University is on the move…(Unstoppable) is the energy we have,” Genshaft said.

The seven-year campaign, which started almost four years ago, has already raised $317 million in donor gifts and pledges – more than half of its goal, Muma said.

“We always said if we get halfway there, we’re going to announce (it) and we just happen to be in bad (economic) times when it’s time to announce,” he said.

If USF achieves the $600-million target, it would be the largest amount the University has ever raised, Muma said.

If the campaign reaches that amount two years from now, he said, and USF thinks it can raise the goal even higher, then the University will “bump it up.”

The campaign goal was chosen based on the needs of the colleges and the capacity to raise those funds, Muma said.

Prior to the campaign, a study was conducted to determine the campaign’s target amount based on the funding needs of all academic colleges, what’s realistic in terms of funds and the school’s giving history, said Joel Momberg, chief executive officer of the USF Foundation.

This is a comprehensive campaign in which collected funds will go toward a variety of areas through the USF system, Momberg said.

This is the third comphrensive campaign in USF’s history. In 1991, the University raised $117 million and $256 million in 2001.

According to the campaign report, this is how USF hopes the funds will be used: $147.2 million in academic achievements; $157.5 million in capital; $118 million in faculty, like chairs and professorships; $129.95 million in scholarships; and $47.35 million in miscellaneous funds, which include unclassified contributions placed into the operating budget of the University.

The distribution of funds is largely left to the discretion of the donor who contributes them, Muma said.

“Our whole plan for this campaign is to find a prospect that’s interested in USF – find out what their passion is,” he said. “Is it the Library? Is it (USF) Health? And then find out what part of that we can attract money from, and if it’s capital for a building, that’s fine. If it’s for a chair that’s fine.”

Momberg said donations can include endowments, direct contributions, cash gifts and mutual funds, among others.

The endowment portion is “big” within the campaign, he said. Donors can give multi-year pledges that aren’t paid up front.

“So when you say someone gave $7 million, that might be $1 million for seven years,” Momberg said.

Fundraising never stops, he said, and that also drove the University’s decision to move forward with the campaign.

“What happens to your donor base is they forget you,” Momberg said. “You have to really continue to build your base … a lot of time this year we spent cultivating our donors. We’ve got a great base of alumni.”

A lead alum, who has high visibility and respect in a town, is a type of donor that USF looks to cultivate, he said.

Direct mail, e-mail, alumni chapters and even social networking Web sites like Facebook aid in communication between donors and USF, Momberg said.

In fact, a USF alum in Washington, D.C., is hosting a similar kickoff event Tuesday night to fundraise in an area that has a large number of USF alumni, he said.

Momberg said he thinks the campaign will achieve its goal in four years, but if that doesn’t happen, then extending it another year won’t hurt.

If anything, Momberg said, the economic climate could just change the way donors give money over a period of time by extending their payments.

Somebody is making money during these times, Genshaft said.

“There are people who want to give no matter what,” Genshaft said. “This is a time I think student scholarships, endowment chairs for faculty, lab buildings – whatever it is they have an interest in – we can work together to make something great.”