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Board of Visitors Advancement Committee discusses U.Va. Strong Fund and fundraising achievements

Over 87 percent of the Honor the Future campaign of $5 billion has been raised as of early December

<p>Luellen also expressed gratitude to the Advancement Committee at Virginia Tech, who offered support and advice on mistakes to avoid with the launch of the fund.</p>

Luellen also expressed gratitude to the Advancement Committee at Virginia Tech, who offered support and advice on mistakes to avoid with the launch of the fund.

The Board of Visitors Advancement Committee discussed the U.Va. Strong Fund and other fundraising progress at its Friday morning meeting.

Vice President for Advancement Mark Luellen opened the discussion with an overview of the creation of the U.Va. Strong Fund, an effort to support survivors, families and the University community following the Nov. 13 shooting. The fund is led by Cindy Frederick, senior associate vice president for alumni engagement, and Lily West, chief executive officer of the Alumni Association. 

Second-year College student Devin Chandler, third-year College student Lavel Davis Jr. and fourth-year College student D’Sean Perry were fatally shot the evening of Nov. 13 while returning from a field trip to Washington, D.C. All three were members of the Virginia football team. Two additional students, third-year College student Mike Hollins and second-year College student Marlee Morgan, were injured in the shooting and were later discharged from U.Va. Health. 

Luellen said the fund is not a fundraising campaign, but a response to hundreds of requests from alumni to help the University in the aftermath of the shooting. 

“It is simply a vehicle for those individuals who want to provide philanthropic support to the individuals who were on the bus, the families of the victims and other people around the community who have been impacted by these horrific events,” Luellen said.

Luellen also expressed gratitude to the Advancement Committee at Virginia Tech, who offered support and advice on mistakes to avoid with the launch of the fund. Virginia Tech created similar funds in 2007 after a shooting on its campus left 33 people dead. The U.Va. Alumni Association established an advisory group to establish a series of guiding principles and criteria for fund allocation.

Luellen also gave an overview on the progress of the Honor The Future campaign, which was launched in 2019 with the goal of raising $5 billion and making the University the best public university by 2030. The campaign has documented $236 million in commitments from July through Dec. 9, an 11 percent increase from last year. The University plans to bring in between $91 and $97 million in the last five months of the year. 

The Honor The Future campaign is ahead of schedule and has raised over 87 percent of the overall goal of $5 billion. Luellen noted that although the cash flow numbers and gifts of appreciated securities are down slightly, he believes it is a timing issue that should not cause concern, as the overall fundraising remains on track. 

“We've had great success on the overall campaign, but we want to build a broader base of support for the long run,” Luellen said.

Katie Shevlin, executive director of corporate and foundation relations, overviewed the corporate and foundation relations program, which provides fundraising assistance and guidance for faculty. Through the program, Corporate and Foundation Relations has increased the average gift size from foundations by 167 percent, from $75,000 to $200,000. Another key achievement is receiving funding from the Ford Foundation, as the University had not received funding from the foundation since 2008. Shevlin reported that in the last 3 years, the University has received $500,000 in support from the Ford Foundation.

Near the end of the meeting, University President Jim Ryan announced a gift from donors Bill and Joanne Conway, who have invested nearly $50 million in the School of Nursing.

Zachary Crowe and Elizabeth Minnigh, philanthropic advisors to the Conways, said the Conways’ donation has enabled 30 students to graduate with a degree in nursing. As the U.S. is currently facing a severe shortage of nurses, Minnigh said nursing schools don’t have the capacity to take in more students despite there being an abundance of applicants, which is what the Conway’s hope to solve with their donation.

“That's a life changing degree, a lifetime job,” Crowe said. “And then on top of that, [nurses] can go about health care, which we all need in this country.”

The Conways have committed $14 million to support scholarships, research, clinical training and an expansion of the nursing program across the state. Minnigh and the group toured the School of Nursing this fall to witness firsthand the impact the donation has on students.

“It was really wonderful to see them on the floor, and to hear how their education prepares them for being on the floor and how they were giving back to the next generation of students,” Minnigh said. 

The next Board meetings will be held in March.


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