With $1.46 billion raised, the University is closing in on its $1.5 billion fundraising goal as part of the Light the World campaign.
Boston College launched its first fundraising campaign in May of 1921 to fund the construction of four University facilities: a gymnasium, science hall, chapel, and library. The fundraising effort, conducted in the parishes of the Archdiocese of Boston, sought to raise $2 million in 10 days.
“Boston College will be big enough if your heart is,” the campaign poster printed in an April 1921 issue of The Heights, reads.
Nearly 100 years later, BC is becoming bigger still. The school’s fundraising efforts have grown exponentially since its first campaign launched in 1921, broadening from the constituents of local parishes to amassing donations from nearly 133,000 individuals and organizations.
Light the World, the largest capital campaign in the history of Jesuit, Catholic education, was launched in 2008 with the intention of raising $1.5 billion for University advancement by the close of the 2015-16 academic year. Just $40 million shy of the goal, the University is set to reach this benchmark ahead of the close of the 2015 calendar year.
The funds raised from Light the World are split between six University priorities: academic excellence, undergraduate financial aid, Jesuit Catholic heritage and student formation, intercollegiate and intramural athletics, campus facilities, and annual giving. Of the funds already raised, $468 million of the $575 million goal has been raised for academic excellence, $283 million of the $300 million goal for financial aid, $100 million of $125 million for Jesuit, Catholic Heritage and Student Formation, $136 million for intercollegiate and intramural athletics (surpassing the initial goal of $100 million), $184 of $225 million for new campus buildings, and $164 million of the $175 million goal has been raised in annual giving. There is also $123 million pending designation, as a location for the funds has not yet been determined by the donors.
Light the World has already seen visible results for the University and its students, with the majority of notable facilities, initiatives, and centers opened in recent years made possible through campaign funding. The Cadigan Alumni Center, the residence hall at 2150 Commonwealth Ave., the moving of the McMullen Museum of Art, and Stokes Hall were all direct results of contributions made to the campaign.
“In the building realm, Stokes Hall has really been the crown jewel facilities project of the campaign, transforming Middle Campus, certainly, and the way in which so many of our students experience the core, and so many of their humanities courses,” said Beth McDermott, associate vice president for development in the Office of University Advancement.
Stayer Hall, Maloney Hall, Simboli Hall, and the Morrissey College of Arts and Sciences were all renamed in recognition of significant benefactors to the University as a part of the campaign.
Beyond facilities, a number of academic centers have been established through campaign funding: the Roche Center for Catholic Education, the Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy, and the Shea Center for Entrepreneurship, among others. The campaign also allowed a number of endowments for faculty: 31 endowed professorships and assistant professorships have been established across all four undergraduate schools, two endowed deanships within the Carroll School and Lynch School, three coaching positions—head men’s basketball, head men’s hockey, and assistant women’s lacrosse—and the athletic directorship, and the vice president for University Mission and Ministry.
Within student financial aid, Light the World has made a number of endowed scholarships possible for students. Pops on the Heights, one of the University’s largest annual fundraisers, has raised significant dollars in current use support for student financial aid—money the University can spend immediately for student scholarships, McDermott noted, allowing the University to adhere to its mission of remaining need-blind in admission.
As for the composition of gifts, alumni and parents of students are the driving force behind much of what has been accomplished in the campaign, said James Husson, senior vice president for University Advancement.
BC is unlike larger research universities with major medical and engineering programs, Husson noted, where fundraising may be driven by patients of the medical enterprise or other forms of foundational and organizational support. In the case of BC, giving is primarily reliant on individual contributions. Of the 132,893 donors to campaign thus far, 126,525 of them were individual donors to the campaign. Husson also noted that leadership giving has driven the campaign, with the signature achievements made possible by large, outsized gifts.
“Like in any campaign, you usually see a dynamic where about 10 percent of the donors give about 90 percent of the funding,” Husson said. “I think that’s probably true for us as well—the top 100 or 200 donors are giving a very high percentage of the amount that’s been raised.”
Within the alumni community, there has been significant campaign engagement and support by young alumni—Graduates of the Last Decade, or GOLD—as they have participated at the highest levels of any cohort of the alumni body. While recent alumni may not be making large financial contributions to the campaign, Husson said, they are giving in big numbers.
“Our donors know where BC is going—they want to help us get there.”
The scope of the Light the World campaign speaks to growing alumni and parents interest in philanthropic investment in the University. There has been an upward trajectory of giving over recent years, as donors are accelerating giving over time and giving at higher levels than previous years. The University’s last fundraising campaign, Ever to Excel, concluded in 2003 with $441 million in funding. Light the World has more than tripled the results of Ever to Excel, which is a reflection of the level of commitment of the alumni and parent community, Husson said.
“Our alumni and parents, through this campaign, are saying ‘We’re going to make BC, not just a priority, but a top priority in our lives,’” Husson said. “This isn’t just a memory for our alumni of a fond experience they had 10, 20, 30 years [ago]—this is a place that continues to be an active presence in their lives, and that they want to support because of that.”
A Look Back At Notable Fundraising Efforts
1921: Buildings Campaign, $1.7 million
1991: Campaign for Boston College, $136 million
2003: Ever to Excel, $441 million
2015: Light the Word, $1.46 billion
This growth in giving among the BC philanthropic community can be attributed, in part, to the school’s transparency with donors over the strategic direction of the University. Husson noted that the strong strategic leadership at the level of the president and the provost, in particular, encourages donors to invest.
“We don’t suffer from a situation where our donors feel like ‘I’m not sure where BC is going,’” Husson said. “Our donors know where BC is going—they want to help us get there.”
Beyond the monetary level, the Light the World campaign was structured to speak to the Jesuit, Catholic ideals at the core of the University. The name of the campaign, modeled after St. Ignatius’ edict to “go set the world aflame,” speaks to the larger strategic focus of the University. The incorporation of service and volunteerism into the campaign seeks to address this focus, as the campaign hosted various volunteer service initiatives and events to encourage alumni and donor participation.
The Light the World campaign will continue fundraising through the end of the 2015-16 academic year, though it is expected that the campaign will reach the $1.5 billion mark well before then.
“One of the goals of the campaign beyond any specific gift was to really support Boston College as a whole and the work of our community,” Husson said. “I think that’s the one really that comes to mind when I think about the broader strategic focus of the campaign: that notion of the community of Boston College alumni, parents, and friends coming together to be part of something that’s bigger than ourselves.”
Featured Image by Emily Fahey / Heights Senior Staff