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February 4, 1999

Campaign kick-off is 18 months away, but over $143 million in donations already has been raised

Pitt isn't planning to publicly kick off its latest capital campaign until fall of the year 2000.

But by the end of 1998, the University already had raised $143.2 million in campaign gifts and pledges, according to Pitt's chief fundraiser.

Carol Carter, vice chancellor for Institutional Advancement, said the campaign goal hasn't been set yet, but it will be "at least $500 million, maybe $600 million or even higher." Campaign planners hope to secure gifts and pledges totaling half of the goal by the time Pitt announces its campaign during homecoming in fall 2000, Carter told the University Senate's budget policies committee Jan. 22.

"Some institutions announce their kickoffs when they've reached 30 percent [of their campaign goal]; 40 percent is probably the average. We're being aggressive in going for 50 percent before we announce," Carter told the committee.

The campaign's so-called quiet phase began in July 1997. The national, or public, phase is expected to run from fall 2000 through June 2003. See chart.

"Quite frankly, what has really made the difference so far has been the Health Sciences, particularly the School of Medicine," with their nationally known programs and emotional allure for donors, Carter said.

The well-publicized bankruptcy of the Allegheny Health, Education and Research Foundation (AHERF) last year "probably put Pitt and UPMC in a better light than we otherwise might have had," Carter said. "I don't like to say that we benefited as a result [of AHERF's troubles] but that's probably the reality of it." As an illustration of how emotions can motivate donations, Carter cited a Katz Graduate School of Business alumnus whose wife died of rheumatoid arthritis. The alumnus recently gave $1.5 million to establish an endowed chair in arthritis research at Pitt's medical school.

"Endowed chairs will be a [campaign] priority across the board, not just in the Health Sciences," Carter said.

This week, Chancellor Mark Nordenberg announced that the Maurice Falk Medical Fund plans to endow a $1.5 million chair in either the Graduate School of Public Health or the School of Social Work, to honor longtime fund president Philip Hallen.

In December, the Buhl Foundation awarded Pitt $1.5 million to create an endowed chair in the School of Information Sciences (SIS) to honor foundation president Doreen Boyce.

Those two endowed chairs are believed to be the only ones in the country to be funded by foundations to honor professional staff members, Pitt administrators say.

The University administration and capital campaign leaders plan to finalize campaign priorities by the end of March, Carter told the budget policies committee.

But "without a doubt," she said, "the [campaign's] No. 1 priority will be increasing our endowment — for faculty chairs, scholarships and fellowships for students, and program support." She said the capital campaign will seek gifts of $10,000 to $50,000 to endow book and travel funds; $750,000 for each endowed assistant professorship; $1 million for a visiting professorship; $1.5 million for an associate or full professorship; $2 million for a professor-and-graduate student package ($1.5 million for the chaired professorship plus $500,000 to endow the grad student position) and $2.5 million for an endowed dean or center director.

Those figures don't cover the full costs of endowing the positions, Carter noted.

Of the $143.2 million raised toward Pitt's capital campaign as of Dec. 31, 45 percent came from foundations, 15 percent from corporations and 16 percent from "other organizations" such as the American Cancer Society.

The remaining 23 percent came from individuals' major gifts and planned gifts (17 percent of the total) and Pitt's Annual Giving Fund (6 percent). Major gifts are donations of $50,000 or more.

By campaign's end, University capital campaigners hope to greatly increase the number of donations from individuals. "By the end of the campaign, we're hoping to have 42 percent of total gifts and pledges in the form of major gifts and planned gifts from individuals, with another 8 percent from the Annual Giving Fund," Carter said.

While Pitt traditionally has excelled in acquiring gifts from foundations and corporations, it lags behind comparable universities in alumni donations.

From July through December 1997, Pitt raised $5.7 million in cash from alumni, a six-month record here. During July-December 1998, alumni giving dropped to $5.15 million, a decline that Carter attributed to less aggressive telemarketing.

"Following the record success we enjoyed in the second half of 1997, we heard comments that our approach had been a little too aggressive," Carter said. "So last fall, we weren't so aggressive. We did our test, but we found out that you really need to keep in people's faces." Despite the decline last fall, Carter pledged that the current fiscal year (which ends June 30) will be the best ever at Pitt for alumni giving.

Even so, she acknowledged, "we have far to go in regard to our ability to compete with some of our peer institutions" such as Penn State and Ohio State.

In many cases, simply asking alumni to donate is all it takes, Carter pointed out.

One alumnus, who founded his own computer company in Louisiana and whose previous gifts to Pitt had totaled $1,000, recently pledged $1 million to the engineering school, she said. "When we asked why he did it, he said one reason was that he believes in the institution. But the No. 1 reason, he said, was: 'Because I was asked.' We hear that kind of response again and again in national surveys.

"We have nearly 190,000 University of Pittsburgh alumni. We know there are diamonds out there that we haven't found yet."

–Bruce Steele

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