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After another record-breaking year the Kansas University Endowment Association is about 80 percent of the way to its eight-year, $1.2 billion fundraising campaign for KU.
Beginning with the first gift — a relatively modest $75 logged on July 1, 2008 — KU Endowment has gone on to raise $957 million to date as part of its "Far Above" campaign. The campaign is set to end in June 2016.
In the 2013 fiscal year KU Endowment set a fundraising record for the sixth straight year. It raised $174.2 million and won its second award for educational fundraising from the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. The majority of that money went to support programs, faculty and students at KU.
With an average gift of $147.30 in 2013, Dale Seuferling, president of KU Endowment, said no one or two gifts standout as "outliers" from the past year. "It's really about a broad base of major gift support," he said.
The nearly $1 billion raised since 2008 has come through a total of 620,692 gifts from the Endowment's 44,574 donors spanning every U.S. state, according to KU Endowment's most recent financial report. More than half of those donors live in Kansas.
With two and a half years left in the campaign, Seuferling said the organization had no "hard and fast" estimate for when they might reach their $1.2 billion goal. The trajectory of gift giving could wind down as the Endowment Association nears its end goal, or economic forces could slow the rate of giving. At the same time, Seuferling said his team won't relax even if they should hit the goal before June 30, 2016.
"We would want to continue to capitalize on the momentum and theme of the campaign," he said. Likewise, there could be goals for individual university schools, programs and departments still unfulfilled at that point, even if the overall target for Far Above is met.
Since starting the campaign the university and KU Endowment have announced some high-profile projects, including the nearly $56 million in private funds raised to construct a new building for the KU School of Business.
At the groundbreaking for the new business school building, Gov. Sam Brownback quipped that KU could start doing all of its building in the future with private funds. The joke elicited groans from the audience and also symbolized a point of contention between fiscal conservatives and higher education supporters in Kansas.
Brownback's comment reflected the opinion of many in the legislature and across the state that KU's fundraising prowess could help it replace state cuts to higher education.
University and KU Endowment officials have said publicly that private fundraising complements state support and cannot replace it, largely because the vast majority of gifts are earmarked for special scholarships, professorships and other specific uses.
"It's a chilling effect when donors see that there might be diminished state support," Seuferling said. "Donors are aware of recent cutbacks in higher education and have expressed to us that ... they do hope there isn't a reduction in state support, because they know it reduces the power and the value of their gift."