Light The World Campaign Hits $1 Billion

Boston College announced today that it has raised $1 billion for its Light the World campaign, which aims to raise $1.5 billion for University development by 2015.

The campaign’s major initiatives, in addition to raising $1.5 billion, are to increase the number of alumni who donate annually to 40,000; to increase the number of legacy and estate gifts; and to expand volunteer service to BC.

“Campaign gifts go to support the entire University,” said Vice President for Development Thomas Lockerby. “Our effort is to match each donor’s passion with a particular aspect of the University that means the most to them, because BC is such a complex and vibrant place.”

These combined funds have been earmarked for improvements in six major areas: $300 million for undergraduate financial aid; $575 million for academics; $125 million for Jesuit, Catholic heritage and student formation; $100 million for athletics; $225 million for new building projects; and $175 million in annual giving.
Light the World is the largest fundraising campaign in the history of Jesuit, Catholic education. Traditionally, university fundraising campaigns aim to double the amount of money raised in the previous campaign. This would have meant $880 million for BC-twice the $440 million it raised in the “Ever to Excel” campaign that ended in 2003.

“The campaign goal was an outcome of the University’s strategic planning process,” said Senior Vice President for University Advancement Jim Husson. This process included input from University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J., as well as the University’s trustees, faculty, deans, the larger University community, and an outside consulting company. After gauging both the donor potential and interest for the campaign, the University officially launched Light the World in October 2008.

According to Husson, about two-thirds of the total amount raised so far has come from about 700 families.

“You can look at that and say, well, it’s really about a sort of upper echelon of donor and that’s what matters,” Husson said. “On the other hand, we have more than 100,000 donors to this campaign. 100,0000 people and organizations have made at least one gift to the campaign since it’s been launched.”

Making BC a priority in the lives of as many alumni as possible is key to ensuring the success of the campaign, Husson said.

“As we want to engage all alumni, many people won’t be able to give a gift that’s large enough, say, to endow a faculty professorship,” Lockerby said. “But their gift can be amalgamated with the gifts of all other people, and that really makes an impact on the University.”

Lockerby said that this year an increase to 35,000 annual alumni donors, or 25 percent since 2008, is expected.

Support for all areas of the campaign, from recruiting volunteers to reaching out to donors, was done via direct mail and email and one-on-one conversations.

According to University Spokesman Jack Dunn, BC is one of only 21 private universities that offer need-blind financial aid and commit to meeting the full demonstrated need of a student. Of these universities, BC has one of the smallest endowments.

“That’s a very expensive undertaking,” Husson said. “A family who is interested in supporting financial aid through the campaign would contribute money to establish their own personal endowment that would be designated for an undergraduate student’s scholarship.” These scholarships would be awarded yearly according to a student’s financial needs.

The campaign’s commitment to financial aid also extends to supporting athletic and Presidential Scholar Program scholarships.

Light the World supports improvements in academics through the creation of endowed professorships, or the permanent support of a particular faculty position, and donations to faculty research.

Although one of the campaign’s goals is to add 100 faculty positions, Lockerby says it does not attempt to make specific hires because the University’s needs will change over time.

“Even if we knew the need was to add 10 faculty members in physics, we wouldn’t want to necessarily want to go out and raise 10 professorships in physics,” Lockerby said. “We’d love alumni and parents to maybe think about professorships in A&S, maybe with a preference for the sciences, but then the provost and deans can really make those decisions about where the need is.”

The University’s commitment to Jesuit, Catholic education and student formation is supported by gifts made to the School of Theology and Ministry (STM) as well as undergraduate initiatives in mission and ministry.
Support for athletics takes the form of donations to both scholarships and the needs of individual programs for travel, uniforms, and other expenses.

“[Buildings] are probably the most literally concrete examples of how the strategic plan led to this campaign,” Husson said.

Prior to launching the Light the World campaign, BC did not have a master plan and did not own the Brighton property, where the STM is located.

“We were able to purchase that, but the purchases we were able to make and the building projects that reflected the master plan were really only something we could envision with philanthropy through the campaign,” Husson said.

Stokes Hall, the Cadigan Alumni Center, and the naming of Stokes and Maloney Halls were also partially funded by gifts made to the Light the World campaign, as were smaller spaces and renovations in Conte Forum and labs in Higgins Hall.

Raising money is not, however, the only goal for this campaign. Organizers considered increasing volunteer involvement just as important to the University’s development.

“We felt very strongly that the campaign needed to be about something that was broader than the contributed dollar amount,” Husson said. “When we thought about the campaign, we really thought of it as an engagement effort in full.”

BC’s volunteers lead local chapters and plan engagement events for alumni in their areas, help organize reunions, solicit classmates and potential donors for gifts, and provide advice to the University while serving on the Board of Trustees and the Alumni Board.

Ensuring that volunteers have a meaningful experience while donating their time is especially important.
“If they really find some meaning in the volunteering that they’re doing, they’re going to repeat it over and over, and that’s how they’re going to help us,” Lockerby said. “One of the litmus tests we have is, could a volunteer answer a question about Boston College without any professional staff in the room? … Can they talk about BC as well as the people who are here on campus every day? That’s critical to us.”

Because the campaign was launched in 2008, when the recession was at its worst, Lockerby said that organizers were surprised at the enthusiasm that alumni demonstrated.

“Things were slower than we would have otherwise projected for the first three or four years, but they didn’t stop,” he said. “That was a real testament to some alumni and some parents who recognized that, even in the face of some economic challenges, they still had the means, and they felt an even greater responsibility to make an investment in BC at that point … We wouldn’t necessarily have predicted that we would have had such great news so often in those times, but we did.”

Husson said that the fact that they had raised more than one-third of the $1.5 billion before officially launching Light the World also helped it survive during the recession. Called “quiet fundraising,” this method is traditional of most fundraising campaigns because it allows the organizers to see if their projected goals are feasible.

While reaching the $1 billion mark during BC’s sesquicentennial year is significant, Husson said that the campaign was intentionally designed to end after 2013. This was partly due to how long the committee estimated it would take to raise the money, but also to preserve the integrity of this year’s celebration.

“There are so many other things that are part of the sesquicentennial celebration,” Husson said. “We’ve just crossed the $1 billion point at the 150th celebration timeframe, but now we can move on to complete the campaign in the time after the sesquicentennial celebration has been completed.”


January 31, 2013

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