In 1966, Kansas University and the KU Endowment Association kicked off a capital campaign called Program for Progress with a goal to raise $18.6 million. When the formal part of the drive ended, $21 million had been raised. This was the second largest drive of any public university in the United States.
In 1987, the KUEA and the university launched "Campaign Kansas," a capital campaign with a goal of $150 million. The effort ended in 1992 with $277 million.
KU First was started in 1998 and ended in 2004. The goal was $500 million, with generous alumni and friends contributing $653 million.
The late KU Chancellor Franklin Murphy, one of the truly great university chancellors of the past century, used to emphasize that private money provided the "frosting on the cake" for a state-aided university. Wherever he went, he talked effectively about the importance of private giving if a state-aided university had any hope of achieving excellence rather than settling for mediocrity.
Over the years, private money has played a key role in KU's efforts to achieve excellence. The KU Endowment Association is recognized as one of the best in the country in terms of its ability to raise private money and to manage and direct those funds.
However, funds raised in the three campaigns, although managed and spent wisely, cannot continue to meet the needs of today and tomorrow if KU is to have any chance of becoming an even finer university. The need for private money continues to climb as state funding for higher education continues to fall short of the demands of KU officials, who display an insatiable desire and appetite for additional funds (note the latest call for higher tuition rates). Private money does indeed provide the little extras that allow the university and its students and faculty to have some extras that they wouldn't have otherwise.
This being the case, why hasn't KU begun planning for another major capital campaign?
Recent headlines report the University of Missouri system is about to complete a $1 billion campaign, and other schools are either in the midst of campaigns or have plans to launch aggressive efforts within a short time. Other headlines tell of the rising costs of a university education and how state-aided universities are facing difficult and challenging times getting legislators to approve substantial increases in state financial support.
According to professionals in the fundraising business, it is normal for those who have organized and who have been involved in a university capital campaign to gather shortly after completion of one drive to assess the effort and begin to think about the next drive.
Again, according to these professionals, the next drive should be under way within the next 10 years. Much planning is required, such as putting together a group to plan and oversee the new campaign, selecting those who will lead the effort and determining a reasonable goal. Organizers also must assess the economic climate and the attitude of alumni, friends and potential major contributors - business leaders and others - concerning the university's leadership and direction as well as any other factors that might affect the chances of a successful campaign. Based on the just-completed campaign, they look at what will be the most important needs of the school in the next campaign.
The goal should be challenging, yet attainable, with hard work and superior leadership. It's far better to exceed the goal than to fall short.
One of the key factors is whether the university chancellor or president would be an active, popular and effective fundraiser. Is he or she popular and respected throughout the state and among professional and business leaders in the state and elsewhere? The chancellor or president plays a critical role if the drive is to be a success.
The situation at KU is puzzling, disappointing and not good for the school.
Apparently, little, if anything, has been done toward planning for another capital campaign. Naturally, KUEA officials have thought about needs, etc., but there is no formal program under way.
As noted above, the chancellor or president plays a critical role. Chancellor Robert Hemenway has said he intends to serve as KU chancellor until he is 70. He will turn 67 this coming August. If he retires in August 2011, he will have served as KU's chancellor for 16 years, one of the longest terms in recent memory.
Some of those in fundraising question whether it would be good to start a campaign with only a year or so left in a chancellor's tenure. And there are those who question Hemenway's approval or popularity rating.
If this is the case, should a campaign be delayed until there is a new chancellor? That means three years, plus a year or so to find a new chancellor, then a year or so for the public to become acquainted with the new leader.
Right or wrong, justified or not, there are many mixed opinions about KU, these days, including its leadership and other facets of the university.
In fact, this probably is the reason there is no formal planning at this time for a new capital campaign. Usually, a professional fundraising company has been engaged to oversee the early planning. Individuals have been pinpointed to take on leadership positions, and serious thought is devoted to setting an appropriate goal based on the economic climate and likely giving attitudes among a cross-section of alumni and friends.
None of this has been done at KU.
Consequently, and assuming the climate is not right and that Hemenway doesn't plan to leave his office until 2011, the next drive probably wouldn't get under way until 2013-14 at the soonest. The disappointing question is how much money will KU have lost by allowing so much time to pass between major drives? Granted, there are various targeted fund drives at KU, with the chancellor making the KUMC cancer effort his primary focus, saying it is the university's No. 1 goal. Nevertheless, there are many other needs at the university that are not being addressed.
It's unfortunate that conditions at KU are such that there are no plans for a university-wide capital campaign.