Elon targets fundraising

By Todd Cohen

ELON, N.C. — After raising $47 million in a five-year drive that ended two years ago and exceeded its goal by $7 million, Elon University has begun several quiet fundraising efforts, boosted unrestricted annual giving and begun preparing for a drive that could total $50 million to $75 million.

Starting to address roughly $100 million in needs, Elon last fall quietly launched a $9 million drive for a new home for its Martha and Spencer Love School of Business.

That effort, which has raised $4.5 million, will begin its public phase when it raises at least $7 million, probably in six to 12 months, says Nan Perkins, vice president for institutional advancement.

The school also has raised $500,000 to complete construction of a new health and counseling center, plus $500,000 each for two living-learning pavilions that will be part of an academic village – based on the Academical Village that Thomas Jefferson designed at the University of Virginia — that will include four more pavilions and a large rotunda.

And it has worked to increase annual giving, which had stalled at about $750,000 from 1995 through 2001.

Finding that comparable schools average $1.5 million, Elon set a goal of building its annual fund to $1.25 million by 2008.

A key strategy has been to solicit and recognize bigger unrestricted gifts.

The school last year increased to $1,500 from $1,000 gifts required for Elon Society membership, and created “giving circles” for unrestricted gifts of $2,500, $5,000 and $10,000.

The strategy yielded $975,000, up from $770,000 a year earlier, and Perkins expects annual giving in the fiscal year that ends May 31 to exceed $1.1 million.

Giving last year included 382 unrestricted gifts of more than $1,000, up from 77 such gifts a year earlier.

“Your most loyal and most supportive donors believe they belong at one of your higher levels,” Perkins says, “and when they see what the levels are, they choose the level where they think they belong.”

Elon wants to add $50 million to its $55 million endowment, trailing endowments ranging from $125 million to $1 billion at comparable schools, Perkins says.

Endowment, a big focus of the next drive, will require a major push for planned gifts, she says.

Beatrice Sanford, a trust officer at the Merrill Lynch office in Naples, Fla., joined Elon last year to head the planned-giving effort.

The drive also could include funds for a convocation center with at least 10,000 seats, an auditorium with 1,200 to 1,500 seats, executive education facilities for the business school and, based on a feasibility study now underway, a new law school.

Elon also is set to launch an online-giving program, and is using a weekly email newsletter to strengthen ties with alumni and parents.

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