Funding a 10-Figure Capital Campaign at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Multimillion dollar fundraising can feel like a moving target.

And in many ways, it is.

Thankfully, there are great institutions across the US who are narrowing in on just what it takes to bring in donations on a grand scale, without losing sight of the individuals who help them achieve their 10-figure goals.

Our guest this week on the Enrollment Growth University was Jon Salvani, Director of Advancement and Team Lead for Chicago Regional Advancement Team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Jon’s team at the University of Illinois is running one such campaign, heavily relying on the philanthropic giving of alumni to meet their goal.

We talked to Jon about the importance of creative campaigning, retaining and growing alumni contributions, and a general game plan for running a 10-figure capital campaign.

Here are some highlights from our chat.

How Philanthropic Giving Is Critical to Enrollment Revenue

It’s an unfortunate misconception that public schools are adequately funded by the state.

Most of the time, the opposite is true, which leaves large universities, like the University of Illinois, reliant on running large-scale fundraising campaigns, with great focus on alumni giving.

Jon and his team have made great strides in reaching out to their existing alumni donor network, who not only fund scholarships, but also professorships, chairs, fellowships, and more.

They have worked hard to ensure that these alumni donors, in particular, understand where their money is going and continually strive to find new and creative ways to show that to them, whether that’s through naming rights for new construction or new and innovative scholarships.

Donors are becoming more and more engaged with where their funds are going, so Jon and the University want to ensure that donations are not only used wisely, but used in a way that makes a tangible impact for both donor and recipient.

Jon also mentioned that engagement with donors is fluid and recognizes that what works now, might not work in two or three years, so it’s an important part of their campaign strategy to be evaluative and look for multiple ways of offering impact for contribution.

Employing The Use Of Creative Campaigning

Part of ensuring continued donor engagement is by thinking creatively within your campaign.

One way that Jon and his team have found to creatively campaign is by leveraging the generosity and connections of current alumni donors in the corporate sphere.

With more than ⅓ of their alumni base located in the Chicago and surrounds, part of Illinois’ most recent campaign encourages alumni to be champions in the effort of corporate donor engagement.

Another way they are trying to think outside of the box is by approaching current alumni donors for additional contributions, with suggestions of charitable annuities and remainder trusts.

At the end of the day, embrace creativity and have fun finding what works for your community of donors.

Creating A Game Plan For A Large Scale Capital Campaign At Your Institution

If you’re looking to embark on a large scale capital campaign, Jon had a few words of advice for creating a game plan.

First of all, know that your plan needs to be flexible.

Secondly, keep open communication with all the moving parts. You can expect dozens, if not hundreds, of individuals to be involved in the campaign so open and clear communication is key to ensuring all voices are represented and ideas discussed.

Communication is the best way to ensure that you have buy in from all angles.

Lastly, think strategically.

Don’t just set a fundraising goal, but strategize how you’ll achieve it. Is your goal realistic or a stretch goal? What does your donor pyramid look like?

What’s your marketing plan? How will you get the word out?

Again, have a plan, but always keeping in mind that your plan will most likely need to change as the campaign goes on. It’s a moving target that requires re-evaluation and thinking creatively, especially leveraging on your already invested donors.

This post is based on a podcast interview with Jon Salvani from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to Enrollment Growth University

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.