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UA goes great guns.

Arkansas' Flagship Campus is Catching Up Quickly in the World of Private Fund Raising

THERE IS A SIMPLE motto behind the massive $115 million fund-raising campaign at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

The phrase, "for generations to come," is on the cover of the brochure used to promote the campaign, and practically every other page, too.

As rallying cries go it seems a little mundane; but, oh, how the troops have responded.

At an institution that averaged less than $4 million a year in private gifts before 1989, new benchmarks for giving are being set each semester as the school convinces the corporate community to involve itself in the educational future of the state.

When the major fund-raising campaign was announced by the university in November, the school had already hauled in $58.6 million toward the 1996 goal. In the four months since, pledges and donations have cranked up the total to $70 million.

"This thing has taken on a life of its own," says A.H. "Bud" Edwards, vice chancellor for university advancement. "It's absolutely overwhelming. It's a great day for me to retire."

It seems only yesterday the UA was mired in fund-raising mediocrity.
Nine-Year Total Giving History
1991-92 $16,498,244
1990-91 14,517,479
1989-90 3,693,129
1988-89 3,342,058
1987-88 3,334,903
1986-87 6,490,911
1985-86 2,843,186
1984-85 5,632,080
1983-84 2,931,334
Source: University of Arkansas at Fayetteville


"Frankly, we weren't doing very well," says Edwards, who was hired in late 1989 to mine the unexplored territory of major gifts. "We were not getting our fair share of private sources for the only doctoral facility in the state of Arkansas. I think it was kind of an embarrassment."

When Edwards came on board, about half of the nine positions allocated to the office of institutional advancement were not filled. Worst of all, the office had been operating for more than a year without a vice chancellor to provide strategic planning.

It was a skeleton operation whose only notable accomplishments were annual alumni fund raising, the campaigns to restore Old Main and minor gifts for book acquisition and improvements to the engineering program.

The school was raising about $3.2 million a year at a time when its peer institutions in the South were raising $8 million-$10 million.

A New Beginning

Edwards believed that corporations would give generously to the university if they were convinced they had a long-term interest in the school's success.

As it turns out, he was right.

Edwards began by dispatching eight of his employees to work directly under the dean of each college, assisting in setting priorities for the way the money would be spent.

In the first year of the process, the university drew up a $400 million wish list of projects. The list was reduced to $100 million, and the race began.

When James "Bud" Walton, co-founder of Wal-Mart Stores Inc., donated $15 million for the new basketball arena in 1991, the goal was raised to $115 million, just so no one would get lazy.

The secret weapon in the campaign has been a volunteer group of UA graduates called the National Development Council, consisting of leading entrepreneurs and other influential Americans.

The volunteers got the ball rolling by introducing university officials to prospective donors across the country.

"They give us the Good Housekeeping seal of approval," Edwards says of the group.

"We then began to build relationships with those donors," he says. "The more people you ask, the more yeses you get."

About 80 percent of the gifts have come from corporations or individuals with connections to the state or the university.

A good example of the university's method of operation can be found in the maneuvering of Webb Hubbell, a UA graduate now acting as a White House liaison to the Department of Justice.

The university decided its Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences was losing far too many potential recruits to the allure of Vanderbilt, Princeton and Stanford universities. So the UA fought back.

"We need to have a scholarship that was the very best in the United States."

That's where Hubbell came in. He introduced the university to the Sturgis Foundation of Dallas, which gives most of its money to Arkansas causes.

Sturgis Generosity

With a good word from Hubbell, the professional fund-raisers encouraged the Sturgis Foundation to create an initial $2 million endowment that produced $40,000 in scholarships for students of the college over a four-year period.

The foundation has since increased the endowment to $5 million and is currently sponsoring 21 Sturgis Fellows.

"Donors don't give you money because you need it," Edwards says. "They give you money because they have a need. Usually they have a mission they believe in."

In the case of the Sturgis Foundation, the mission was to stop Arkansas' "brain drain" -- to get more Arkansas students to attend college in the state, knowing that would increase the chances they would remain in the state for life.

The university fund-raisers spend 90 percent of their time working on "major" gifts of more than $100,000, but the large-scale success has excited alumni contributors, too.

Total donations are running ahead of last year's pace by $3 million and 719 gifts. Annual alumni donations are going up by roughly $200,000 a year, and last year's collections set a record at $1.3 million.

The $14.5 million total fund-raising effort in 1991 earned the university an award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Total 1992 fund raising was impressive again at $16.5 million, and Edwards is predicting $18 million will be raised this year.

Best of all, Edwards is convinced the university's major effort will translate into higher donations to the other colleges and universities in the state.

Setting an example, after all, is what being a flagship campus is all about.
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Title Annotation:University of Arkansas' fund raising activities
Author:Haman, John
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Apr 12, 1993
Words:989
Previous Article:Building for the long haul.
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