University close to reaching fundraising goals despite harsh economic times

Alexa Ura

With two years to go, the University’s Campaign for Texas is more than halfway toward reaching its $3 billion fundraising goal despite harsh economic times.

First announced in 2008, the Campaign for Texas is an eight-year, $3 billion fundraising effort that aims to fund future University goals. Different UT entities have specific goals, ranging from $5 million to $350 million. The College of Education, the College of Fine Arts and the Jackson School of Geosciences have already reached their original goals, totaling $213.5 million. The campaign has raised $1.9 billion to date and will end in August 2014.

David Onion, senior associate vice president for development, said the colleges and schools who have met their goal are in the process of setting new goals and priorities to continue their fundraising beyond campaign goals. The LBJ School of Public Affairs and the School of Nursing are also very close to meeting their goal, he said.

“We are literally knocking at the door of $2 billion, which we feel pleased with considering the tough economic conditions we have been weathering for six years,” Onion said. “State funding only makes up 13 percent of our funding, so philanthropy from alumni and friends has become more important.”

Individual alumni donations through annual giving, small gifts made on a year-to-year basis, are up more than 3 percent, making these donations 13 percent of the total funds raised so far. Compared to the previous capital campaign “We’re Texas!” most of these donations come through the annual giving program, Onion said.

Other donors have committed to the University through planned gifts promising to donate part of their estate or recording their donations on their wills.

Onion said these gifts average $350,000, but 30 percent of these types of gifts are not counted toward the campaign’s goal because of their nature.

“We are not focused on transaction but instead on the long-term relationships we are building with our alumni,” he said. “The most generous alumni give to us year after year, but we are also building new relationships with new donors.”

Onion said the campaign has increased University endowments by 25 percent benefiting 1,000 more students and faculty across campus.

The Texas Exes, UT’s alumni association, helps the University’s central administration reach out to their alumni base and help on all aspects of the campaign, said Texas Exes President John Beckworth. The association launched the Forty Acres Scholars Program, a merit-based, full-ride scholarship program, as part of its Campaign for Texas priorities.

Jeff Melton, executive director for development for the McCombs School of Business, said the school originally planned to raise money for the Texas Exes Forty Acres program but refocused its efforts into its own scholarship program, McCombs Scholars.

“The program has resonated with alumni and friends who understand the need for financial assistance,” Melton said. “It’s our responsibility and our job to work to develop resources for programs established through the campaign.”

The business school has raised $125 million toward its $225 million goals.

Onion said the University has never raised this amount of money in its history. UT’s previous campaign, “We’re Texas!” which ran from 1997 to 2004, had a $1 billion goal and ended up raising more than $1.6 billion — the largest capital campaign at the time for a university without a medical school.

Onion said the creation of a UT medical school could give the campaign access to additional research contributions only available to universities with medical schools.