Unstoppable campaign meets $600M goal

The USF Foundation announced Wednesday it had surpassed its $600 million fundraising goal, despite facing years of unexpected economic turmoil.

The USF: Unstoppable Campaign, which began in 2005, raised about $300 million within its first three years, but in 2008, as the nation’s recession reached its peak and the state continued to be strapped for cash to provide public universities with, organizers of the campaign began to worry.

“We did have a couple of rocky years when the economy was a little bad,” Joel Momberg, CEO of the USF Foundation, said. “We did some soul-searching because when you have bad economic years, you wonder what the donors are going to be undergoing and what kind of potential we have there and whether people will still give money — whether they can.”

But the donors didn’t change their minds, he said, and the campaign continued.

“What they did was they came back and said, ‘Hey, we’re going through a little bit of a tough time; can we extend our pledge payments?’ or ‘Can we pay a little less this year and next year but keep this going?’” Momberg said.

Some donors had to skip a few payments, but after the economy picked up, the dollars got better, he said.

In 2011, the campaign brought in $111 million alone.

While most of the money has come as usable cash, some has come in the form of planned gifts left in wills, property or stocks that can be liquidated, and endowments.

Momberg said, about $286 million, or about 46 percent, was in outright gifts, while about $82 million came in estate gifts, $129 million in pledges, $29 million in private research grants and some via state-matched funds, a
program the state discontinued in 2008.

The university is still awaiting some of the unpaid state funds, he said.

More than $170 million of the $621 raised to date has gone toward USF Health, with total gifts as large as $40 million from donors such as Frank and Carol Morsani, $40 million for USF Athletics, with gifts for new facillities from the Mumas, Gonzmarts, Corbetts and the most recent donation from Thomas James for a new tennis center. About $140 million has been raised for facilities such as the Patel Center for Global Solutions and Sembler Fountain and Plaza in St. Pete, and $75 million has funded student scholarships.

“We’ve gone through some strains in economic times in this country and in this area,” Momberg said. “Funding issues are always out there for universities, so to have the ability to increase the campus, to add to the wonderful programs and enhancements we have with so many of our great students — it allows us to grow.”

As for the future of the campaign, Momberg said to “be on the lookout.”