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Rankings fall may increase donations

There may be one bright spot in the University's drop to the No. 2 public school in the nation in U.S. News and World Report, according to Capital Campaign officials who believe the drop could stimulate further giving.

"Obviously it remains to be seen" whether giving will increase, said Robert D. Sweeney, University vice president for development. "Early anecdotal evidence I've received from alumni is that in fact the drop was noticed by them, and it seems to have stimulated their competitive juices."

Development Director of Communications Bill Sublette said giving could increase as a result of the drop-off in the rankings.

"It could energize people to work even harder to move the University forward," Sublette said. "I sense some of that at the University as well."

University Senior Vice President Ernie Ern said because the University's essential academic product has not changed, he does not anticipate the rankings will affect donations.

"It should have no impact on our fundraising efforts," Ern said. "Many of our donors know that our offerings and quality haven't changed."

Sweeney said he hopes to inform University alumni and friends about the areas of the rankings they can affect, and then encourage them to help boost giving in those areas.

"What I hope to be able to do is point out to alumni and friends what areas of the rankings we have control over," he said.

Such areas include the amount of money invested in educational programs, percentage of alumni giving and total amount of alumni giving.

"There are a number of elements [in the rankings] we don't have control over, but these are the things alumni and friends do have control over," Sweeney said.

He said the drop might be an issue development officials will use to stimulate additional giving, made necessary by the drop in public funding provided by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

"All this Campaign has allowed us to do is to build a fundraising apparatus to begin the private refinancing of a public institution and to make us able to compete with the very best educational institutions in the nation," he added. "The growth [of fundraising] in the next decade will determine whether we reach that point."

Sweeney said alumni and friends will have to increase annual giving from $125 million a year to $250 million a year for the University to compete with the nation's top 10 to 15 institutions.

Even though annual giving increased from $50 million in 1992 to $125 million in 1999, doubling that amount of giving will require a major effort, he said.

"We have to double the amount of philanthropic cash flow in the next five to six years," he added. "It's an extraordinarily ambitious strategy and I'd say it's among the most ambitious in the country."

Sweeney said the increase in giving over the last seven years represents the largest percentage increase in giving of any university in the country, but that other institutions still exceed the University in dollar amount of giving.