Chicago Initiative Kicks Off Today

By Online Editor

In its largest fundraising effort to date, the University today will announce “The Chicago Initiative,” a massive seven-year capital campaign seeking enough money to stay true to the University’s mission while competing with better-funded institutions. The Board of Trustees met earlier this morning to determine the final campaign goal. The announcement is scheduled for 1:30 p.m.

The Chicago Initiative was presented to students Wednesday with free shakes in the campus C-Shop and a brown bag lunch with president Don Michael Randel, vice president and dean of students in the University Margo Marshak, and vice president for development and alumni relations Randy Holgate.

“What will be announced is a very substantial effort and one we’re confident we can achieve,” Randel said.

The campaign will focus on a number of broad objectives and contain goals for each of the University’s principal operating units as well as a central goal for student life. “It’s very important at a time like this to try to think hard about what the priorities are,” Randel said. “There won’t be something in there for absolutely everybody. We also have to respond to donors’ interests.”

The focus areas will be student financial aid, the faculty and its academic activities, facilities and program support for the “new sciences” at the boundaries of traditional disciplines, and the projects in the campus Master Plan.

Randel spoke of fundraising by contrasting it to a honey-glazed donut, in that it is important not leave out support for areas at the center of the University. “If we failed to get the resources at the core to sustain , the peripheral stuff wouldn’t matter,” Randel said.

Randel spoke of the great disparity among the University’s endowment per student and those of other elite American universities. “We’re in stiff competition with universities much richer than we are,” Randel said. “It’s for that reason that we have to make this kind of an effort now to stay in the game with those universities.”

To stay in the game will require five more years of effort on the part of Holgate’s office, University faculty, students, alumni, and trustees.

Until today, the campaign was in a two-year “quiet phase” in which up to one third of the goal has been raised through donations from past University supporters. Today it will be opened to the public.

“This is a very exciting moment because we are making history as we launch this campaign,” Holgate said.

The University’s last campaign was launched with $112 million in hand, $32 million of which was given by trustees, with a goal of $500 million. The campaign ended with $676 million. According to administrators at the lunch, the current campaign will be “orders of magnitude” larger than the previous one.

Randel stressed that there will be a role for current students in the Chicago Initiative. The campaign has a student steering committee, which offers input on the use of raised funds as well as contributing to campaign planning. He spoke of the need to “put in front of donors the students that will actually benefit .”

According to administrators, the majority of campaign contributions will be through gifts to the annual fund. However, the University’s alumni giving rate is far below that of the universities with which it is trying to compete.

Administrators cite a fundamental difference between the University and its competitors as the cause of the gap. According to Holgate, 70% of University alumni have given money to the University at one point in time. They simply do not have a habit of giving year after year. In addition, the participation of faculty in giving to the University is unusually high, according to Randel.

“It tells an interesting part of the story. People that come here have a commitment to the University because there isn’t anywhere else like it,” Randel said. “It is such a good story we thought we didn’t need to worry about telling it.”

Randel said giving rates will be improved by working with young alumni in new ways, while Holgate emphasized “convincing people that regular annual support is a habit worth making.”

“It is important to inject new energy into the fundraising effort and raise the level a bit,” Randel said.