UNCC gears up for fundraising

Niles Sorenson
Niles Sorenson

Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In October, the Foundation for the University of North Carolina at Charlotte completed a plan setting its top priorities, including more scholarships based on merit and financial need, and increasing the number of endowed professorships by 2015 to 50 from 36.

To put those priorities into place, the university over the next five years will try to raise $100 million, a goal that will require nearly doubling the roughly $14 million it typically raises each year, says Niles Sorenson, vice chancellor for university advancement.

And in the next two to the three years, UNCC likely will begin assessing needs throughout the campus to prepare for a comprehensive campaign that could begin its quiet phase in roughly five years.

The goal for that larger effort could total at least several multiples of the $115 million the university raised in its most recent campaign, which concluded in 2005 and exceeded its goal by $15 million, Sorenson says.

Raising money to address the priority needs the university’s foundation has set likely will consist of creating fundraising strategies to support specific initiatives or projects, particularly focusing on needs of the region or state.

UNCC, for example, currently is constructing a building to house an Energy Production Infrastructure Center for its Lee College of Engineering that will cost $71.5 million.

The center is designed to support the region’s rapidly-growing energy industry, with companies like AREVA, Duke Energy, the Electric Power Research Institute, The Shaw Group, URS Washington Group, Westinghouse, Siemens and Metso Power adding thousands of jobs.

“Over the next 12 months, we will focus a lot of energy on building the facility and faculty support and scholarships for that program,” Sorenson says.

In the area of student support, the university currently provides need-based scholarships from private sources to roughly 1,000 students.

The foundation’s board, chaired by former Duke Energy President Ruth Shaw, has set the goal of increasing that to roughly 1,500 students.

To boost its annual giving over the next five years, and gear up for its next comprehensive campaign, Sorenson says, the university will continue to focus on  building relationships with alumni and other supporters, developing planned gifts, and strengthening its online and social-media fundraising.

UNCC, for example, has email addresses for roughly 45,000 alumni and sends them an email newsletter every other month, as well as birthday greetings and other messages when needed.

Other universities have scaled back or delayed big campaigns, Sorenson says.

And while a growing number of schools are setting campaign goals that approach $1 billion or more, he says, UNCC is a relatively young school with only 85,000 alumni, the oldest of whom are just turning age 60, with half the alumni younger than 37.

So while the university’s 32-person development staff includes a director of planned giving, he focuses on “friends” rather than alumni, nearly all of whom are younger than donors who tend to make planned gifts.

“Over the next 10 years,” Sorenson says, “that begins to change.”

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