Archive for Wednesday, December 5, 2001

KU faces fund-raising challenges

December 5, 2001


On Sept. 7, the Kansas University Endowment Association officially announced the largest fund-raising drive in the university's history.

But only four days after the campaign was announced, all the rules for fund raising changed.

Lindsay Byers, assistant director of annual giving, said officials had a choice: "Do we tiptoe around the issue, or do we go back to business as usual, as (President) Bush said?"

The answer, it turned out, was a combination of the two.

KUEA, which aims to collect $500 million with its "KU First: Invest in Excellence" campaign, halted all phone solicitations for 10 days after the Sept. 11 attacks. Phone calls to potential donors in the Eastern time zone didn't resume until Oct. 15.

And no calls will be made to New York City, Washington and New Jersey areas until the end of January.

"It was one of those things I would rather be too sensitive than not sensitive enough," Byers said.

The Endowment Association typically calls 80,000 KU alumni and friends each year as part of its annual giving program. Last year, the phone calls netted about $1 million for the endowment, about the same as its direct-mail campaign.

"The emphasis on the phone calls is bringing in new donors, whereas the mail campaign is to keep people who already give giving," said John Scarffe, communications director.

Between 50 to 60 KU students work as solicitors. They make phone calls six days a week from the Endowment Association, except during August and during school breaks.

Byers issued a memo explaining how to handle Sept. 11-issues.

For instance, if someone asks how KU could be calling so soon after the tragedy, the caller is to follow the script and say: "My heart and the hearts of everyone I know here at KU go out to the victims and their families. KU has made many steps toward recovering as a community, and we're playing our part in persevering as a university and as a nation. I'm calling tonight as I normally would because I want to be a part of something positive, and we're hoping to speak to alumni who also want to be a part of something positive."

If the potential donor was personally affected by the Sept. 11 tragedy or said they already donated to relief efforts, callers code them as "affected by 9.11.01" and will approach them again in the late spring or summer. So far, about 200 of 38,000 people have fit that category.

"We don't want to worry about being that persistent telemarketer that annoys everybody," Byers said.

Other universities have differed in their fund-raising approaches following Sept. 11, according to the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Ithaca College in New York started its phone campaign Sept. 23, changing its script slightly and not calling people in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Despite the tragedy, giving is strong for KU's annual phone campaign, Byers said. About $500,000 has been raised so far.

This year's phone gifts don't count toward the $500 million goal for KU First. Phone solicitors will ask for extra gifts for the campaign in 2003.

"I figured it was either going to really hurt us or really going to help us," Byers said. "The financial situation we're in is unfortunate, but I think people are going to realize they need to give more, and I think education's a great place to start that."

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