Donor pledges kept throughout Centennial Campaign

Jessica White

Kent State has raised $10 million during this fiscal year’s continuation of the Centennial Campaign — bringing the total to $210 million in donations.

The campaign goal is to raise $250 million by June of 2012, but Eugene Finn, vice president of institutional advancement, said the campaign won’t stop if the goal is met before then.

“Every campaign should have an end date,” Finn said. “But it’s not unusual for universities to exceed a goal.”

The campaign began in fall 2005, and Finn said that despite the shaky economy, the pledges have had about a 98 percent fulfillment rate. This means of all the money originally promised by more than 75,000 donors since the start of the campaign, about 98 percent has been paid.

“That is an outstanding number,” Finn said.

He said the key to the high fulfillment rate is communication.

“We don’t simply accept a pledge from someone and then just let them wander off,” Finn said. “We stay in touch with them.”

Finn added that donors aren’t immune to an unstable economy, but his staff works with them on that, too.

“If a donor is not fulfilling a pledge, then we get ahold of them, have a conversation and see what might be a contributing factor to that problem,” he said. “We work with them and stay in almost constant communication.”

During Bowling Green State University’s centennial campaign — which ended in April, 2009 — some donors also struggled to meet their pledges.

Marcia Latta, associate vice president for advancement at Bowling Green, said she also tried to help.

“A few people asked for extensions,” she said. “So a three-year pledge would typically be extended to five years, or a five-year pledge to six or seven. And of course we were happy to work with them”

Latta said a few donors weren’t able to fulfill their pledges at all due to the economy, but most are hoping to come through once things turn around.

Kevin Marks, director of development at Miami University, said he’s also seen a “down period” in the last two years, but typically it’s the smaller donors who don’t follow through.

“It seems counter-intuitive,” he said, “but the $50 or $100 pledges often fall through. It’s the $10 million donations that tend to stay on track.”

Heather Slough, director of annual giving at the University of Toledo, agreed.

“The people with money still have it,” she said.

Slough said it’s the smaller donors who are struggling, and the university has about a 72 percent fulfillment rate of pledges under $10,000.

Finn said he’s not sure what the Kent State fulfillment rate was before the campaign started, but he’s happy with how well it’s going now.

He said he also wants donors to be happy and comfortable with where their money goes, so his staff educates them on different options such as scholarships, operating needs or capital projects.

“It’s a very individualized process,” he said. “We try to match our donors’ interests to the needs of the institution.”

Contact Jessica White at [email protected].