Q&A: University plans to raise $1 billion by 2020
In its first campaign in 25 years, the University of Houston’s Division of University Advancement has set a goal of $1 billion to be raised by 2020.
Beginning at 9 a.m. Thursday, UH will host the campaign’s public launch, which will include opportunities for students to engage in and learn about the campaign throughout the day.
Over the next three years, the division will be reaching out to current students, University alumni and prominent community figures in order to raise funds for UH.
The Cougar sat down with Eloise Dunn Brice, the Vice President for University Advancement, to ask about the direction of the campaign and the UH Office of Advancement, and how students can be involved in the effort.
The Cougar: How is the University planning on spending the money raised in the campaign?
Eloise Dunn Brice: All the money raised, with very small exceptions, is all directed by the donors. So, the University spends the money that has come in for the campaign the way the donors direct it, and the donors direct it in ways that we ask for it. So, as an example, I would come to you as an alumna and say, ‘We would like to establish a scholarship.’ Then we’d develop a gift agreement so that it’s very clear to you, as a donor, how the University’s going to spend the money in order to give scholarships. The money is directed by donors, but it is only for purposes that the institution considers primary.
TC: Do students get to vote on how any of the money is spent?
EDB: I like to think that the whole reason why we’re here is the students; that is what motivates us every day. What do the students care about? Faculty. What inspires the top notch faculty to come here? Frankly, it’s endowed chairs and professorships that really draw the national academy members and the top folks in their respective fields. Are the students voting on that? No. Is it for the students? Entirely.
TC: Is there any expectation for current students to donate to the campaign?
EDB: Yes, and that has been the case throughout the quiet phase of the campaign. Students give money for spirit cords that they wear at graduation. It’s a symbol of their commitment to the University and as future alumni. We’re ramping it up this spring in order to have more ways in which students can give.
We know the students don’t have, for the most part, huge bucks to give here, but we want them to participate. We want them to know, when they graduate, that this is their school for life. If you’ve given as a student, you realize, ‘Oh, I’m part of this. When I walk by a building with a name on it, that could be me some day.’ So we want students to begin to give, in their own way, as they can now. It feels good to give.
TC: What activities are going to be available to students at the student launch?
EDB: The best opportunity for students to participate is really the 9 a.m. session. That’s the UH community’s first chance to go inside the tent and experience that. We have student philanthropy, booths and opportunities that start at 11 a.m.
At the Student Center, there’ll be a ticker that shows the amount of giving that comes that day. So if you give $50 or $20, or $50,000, that’s going to be part of the ticker to show people that their giving matters. We always deal with this notion that the campaign is just for rich people, and it’s not. The campaign is for everybody. In this campaign, during the quiet phase, we have 94,000 new donors. Those are people who’d never given to the University who’ve come forward and those gifts are from $5 to $20 million plus.
The Launch Talks are at 3 p.m. This is a version of a TED Talk but much shorter. People will be talking about what the University means to them, what their specialties are and what philanthropy means. At 6 p.m. we have a pep rally.
We’re filling the fountain, and we’ve got luminaries around it. It’ll be really special and emotional. It will be a time for students to feel pride. They can actually put a wish in the water, and we’re also doing a time capsule so students can say, ‘This is what I really want to have happen by 2020.’ The campaign ends in 2020, and we’ll open the time capsule at that point.
TC: Could you give us an example of something the Office of Advancement has done for the University outside of this campaign?
EDB: The campaign is really about creating a culture of philanthropy and letting people understand that there’s a way in which philanthropy can help this University reach new heights. Campaigns raise the level of giving every year, and usually between campaigns it sort of stays there. Then you plan the next campaign in a very short order, and it goes up again. Campaigns are the vehicle to build much more significant philanthropic support.
This University has not had a campaign for 25 years. Outside of the campaign is alumni relations. We’ve done a lot in the last three years in order to make sure that the alumni association is viable, that we’ve connected them administratively with the University. What that allows is the Alumni Association not to be a separate organization, but to be integrated much more with students and with faculty.
TC: How is the money being raised from donors?
EDB: It’s really in three buckets. We go and ask people for major gifts or principle gifts. So, those are one-on-one meetings, and we’re very specific about wanting written collateral there so that the donors understand what we’re asking. We also have the annual giving program. Principle gifts, for us, are transformational gifts. They’re ones where there’s enough money involved that a single gift can transform part of the University.
TC: Where is this campaign, and the Office of Advancement, going to take the University?
EDB: To great heights.