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Campaign moves past difficulties

President Sullivan to continue Casteen

The University's capital campaign - an effort to raise $3 billion by December 2011 - was often looked upon as former President John T. Casteen, III's most ambitious undertaking. But with Casteen's departure, many were left wondering about the future of the campaign, which was already falling behind.

But Campaign Campaign Chair Gordon Rainey said the ascent of President Teresa A. Sullivan, though not known for her fundraising abilities, can only help the campaign.

"We're off to a good start with her in a leadership role," Rainey said of Sullivan. "She's deeply immersed in all of the issues, and the campaign is right at the top of her list of areas in which she's going to concentrate. The way I look at this, the last third of the campaign is really her campaign; I think [her election] is going to build a lot of excitement about getting this finished."

Launched in September 2006, the campaign had raised almost $2.2 billion as of Aug. 12, which is about 7 or 8 percent behind schedule.

The campaign is "not right at the trend line where we need to be but within striking distance," said Bob Sweeney, senior vice president for development and public affairs. Nevertheless, Sweeney said fundraising is progressing extremely well, both in the context of current economic circumstances and in comparison to the University's competitors.

Sweeney shared Rainey's optimistic outlook for Sullivan's role in the continuation of Casteen's legacy and described Sullivan as a tremendous asset to the campaign with her warmth, knowledge and willingness to remain active.

"From literally the day of her appointment in January, she has been important to building relationships with the most important benefactors," meeting with top donors and alumni, Sweeney said.

Fundraising efforts continued in full force throughout the summer. In July, the campaign received two gifts of $3 million or more and another of $1 million. Although more money was raised in 2006, 2010 donations exceeded those of 2009, Sweeney said.

"I've been in university fundraising for 38 years, and this is by far the most difficult extended economic situation that I've seen, and yet this university, because of the loyalty of its alums, is able to do quite well," Sweeney said.

Moreover, the campaign has made progress by establishing a record-setting number of contacts with prospective donors during the last two years, Rainey said.

During the year to come, the campaign will place priority on seeking large donations and also will devote resources to motivating all alumni to donate to the best of their ability. At the 2010 convocation speech, Sullivan encouraged students to take ownership of their University and realize that the success of current students rests on the shoulders of alumni.

Additionally, the campaign aims to create more networking communities to allow alumni to connect to each other using tools like Facebook and Twitter. The team also will debut a new iPhone application for the University during the next 30 days.

Even if the time is not right for alumni to give right now, Sweeney said, the relationships the University makes with donors now will pay off later, and when the economy flourishes again, the University will be extremely well-positioned to attract funds.

Both Sweeney and Rainey commended all those involved in the campaign for their steadfast determination to reach the December 2011 goal.

"We're going to get this done, there's no doubt in my mind about that," Rainey said. "I couldn't be more optimistic about the outcome here"