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USF officials hopeful of reaching Unstoppable campaign goal

Despite seeing positive trends, USF’s lofty goal to fundraise $600 million in gifts and commitments through its “Unstoppable” program may not be realized by its target end date.

The initiative, which began July 1, 2005 and is projected to meet completion by June 30, 2012, has raised $372 million so far.

Rodney Grabowski, campaign director and senior associate vice president for University Advancements, said he and other campaign officials will not change the campaign’s fundraising projections.

“We’re not adjusting our target end date right now, but we also know it’s only a target,” Grabowski said. “This campaign is over when we reach the goal.”

The kickoff for the public portion of the campaign, and its pursuant branding as “Unstoppable,” began Oct. 20, 2009, Grabowski said. At that time, the Unstoppable campaign had raised $316 million. It added an additional $55 million more through contributions from more than 40,000 donors during the 2009-10 fiscal year.

Jay Wilson, director of Foundation Communications, said the fundraisers have attracted 106,130 donors over the life of the campaign. He said it is customary for any campaign to delay its public launch.

“A rule of thumb on campaigns of any size is that they are not announced publicly until more than half of the goal is raised,” he said.

Grabowski said the campaign raised 10 percent more money in the 2009-10 fiscal year compared to the previous year, and that for this year it is on pace to do at least as well.

“Now we’re in a new fiscal year … We’re tracking about 10 to 11 percent above last year to date,” he said.

If the trend continues, an additional $60 million may be raised by the end of this fiscal year.

However, if the campaign sees a 15 percent increase for this year and a 15 percent increase for every year until the goal is met, the campaign will remain about $10 million short of its $600 million goal by the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year – one year beyond its target date.

Campaign Chair Les Muma said he is happy with the amount the campaign has raised so far.

“I am very pleased with the progress we’ve made,” he said. “I am confident of our ultimate success.”

Grabowski said the $600 million goal was not settled on until June 2007. However, the idea of making it the most ambitious campaign in school history was “without question” something that had been planned since its inception in 2005.

Some of the monies collected are already being put to use. Muma and his wife, Pam, donated $3 million to the new basketball practice facility, which was the leading donation on that project.

“This past year our dividend, our spending rate, was 4 percent,” Grabowski said.

Of the $600 million, $129.95 million will go toward scholarships and $152.2 million will go to academic enhancements, such as research opportunities. About $162.5 million will go toward capital for projects such as new buildings, $118 million will go to faculty in an effort to develop and enhance their performance through conferences and the usage of instructional materials and $37.35 million will go to miscellaneous causes, which include non-donor designated funds that may be used as the school sees fit, according to the Unstoppable website.

Grabowski said the Patel Center for Global Solutions and a new construction project at USF Polytechnic are two building projects that were made possible by donor contributions.

“What we do is we work with donors to find what they’re interested in giving to and we try to match them up with what we do here at the University,” he said.

Justin Wai, a senior majoring in finance and economics, said he has benefited directly from monies raised through the campaign. He is currently enrolled in a course called Student Managed Investment Fund, which allows students to make real investment decisions with money raised by the campaign.

“So far, I’ve learned a great deal,” Wai said. “This class is kind of like the threshold to the professional world.”

Wai said three donors provided the $100,000 necessary to make the class possible.

“I’m very, very thankful for this opportunity, and that’s why I put forth so much effort (into the class),” he said.

Grabowski said Wai’s experience illuminates the true intention of the campaign – to benefit students.

“Helping the student may mean a scholarship,” he said. “That’s how a student directly feels it, but we also know that students want to be taught by some of the best professors, and trying to attract those professors and have them on staff is important.”