Scott Rabenold, interim vice-president for development and alumni affairs and campaign director, tells Tennessee Alumnus the back-story of the Campaign for Tennessee
Q: How will the money raised during the Campaign for Tennessee be used?
A: The money contributed by donors during the Campaign for Tennessee, regardless of the size of the gift—whether it’s $1 or $100,000—is important to the overall goal of the campaign. Most of the funds are raised for scholarships and professorships and chairs, but there also has been a significant amount of money raised toward building improvements or new buildings. Most construction on UT campuses is not solely state-funded but also includes a significant investment of private resources. Some buildings were constructed entirely with private resources.
Q: Why should the university raise $1 billion if it won’t solve UT’s shortfall in state funding?
A: The university enhances the state’s ability to develop an educated workforce, enhances economic development, and generally has a positive impact on the financial and employment outlook for the state. It is a great investment for donors, and while private giving will not replace state funds, it’s important that we focus on fundraising to enable the students and faculty to have the best experience possible. Private gifts can also provide a level of excellence in certain programs that state funds cannot.
Q: What would happen if UT didn’t have private fundraising?
A: Private fundraising helps reduce the ever-increasing cost to the student by providing for scholarships and helping reduce the impact of decreased state contributions to higher education. Private fundraising historically has been used to establish programs of excellence, adding dollars above and beyond the basic funding provided by the state. Often these private funds elevate university programs to national pre-eminence.
Q: Who benefits the most from the campaign?
A: My experience tells me the donor has as much satisfaction in giving the gift as the recipient appreciates a scholarship or a chair-holder appreciates the funds provided so he or she can conduct programs of excellence. The state also benefits because private resources, while not replacing state funds, enhance the ability of the university to conduct its mission of education, research, and outreach.
Q: Why can’t the money raised be spent any way UT chooses?
A: At the University of Tennessee, we have focused on connecting a donor’s interest to a priority of the university’s leadership. Therefore, these gifts have been earmarked for specific priorities of the university. By design, only a small percentage of these gifts are designated for a specific university priority.
Q: How was the campaign goal set, and how was it reached so early?
A: The campaign goal was set by looking at the university’s priorities and historic fundraising, as well as in conversation with academic and volunteer leadership, such as the Board of Trustees and the UT Development Council. After a twelve-month analysis, it was decided that while a stretch, a billion-dollar campaign was possible. We reached that goal a year and a half early because of generous alumni and friends who rallied around the vision of the institution and a coordinated fundraising effort by a talented fundraising staff and volunteers.
Q: Of the $1 billion, how much has actually been collected and is in hand?
A: At the end of fundraising campaigns, normally about one-third of the funds are received in cash, one-third are pledged over five years, and one-third of the funds are given in planned or future gifts such as bequests, trusts, and gift annuities. The results of the Campaign for Tennessee follow these percentages very closely. But not all the identified needs within the various campuses have been achieved. There is still much to be done, and there will be other fundraising efforts in the future that will address the needs that were not addressed in this campaign.
Q: How long will it take to collect all the pledges and deferred gifts?
A: Normal pledge periods are five years. Most of our deferred gifts are made by people in their late 60s and early 70s, so we hope it’s a long time before the university receives those gifts.
Q: How has the economy affected the campaign?
A: The campaign was publically launched in April 2008, and the stock market took a significant downturn in just a few months later. Overall, the alumni and friends have continued to make gifts and new commitments throughout this time. This can be attributed to our donors’ aspiring for today’s students to have the kind of positive experiences they had as students, valuing the work of our faculty, and believing this university will have a tremendous impact on the future of the state of Tennessee.
Q: When will the next campaign start?
A: It’s anticipated the new president, in conjunction with the Board of Trustees, will play a role in when the next campaign will be initiated. However, whether we’re in a campaign or not, the university will continue to ask for support from our alumni and friends.