U.Va. goes big with $5 billion capital campaign
The University of Virginia has officially kicked off the public phase of the largest-ever capital fundraising campaign by a Virginia university, with a goal to raise $5 billion by 2025.
It may sound like a daunting challenge, but the university is already more than halfway to meeting its “Honor the Future” campaign goal. Leveraging a surging stock market, a new matching-donation approach and donor enthusiasm over President James E. Ryan, who started in August 2018, the U.Va. Board of Visitors’ Advancement Committee has already managed to pull in pledges of more than $2.75 billion since 2017.
The total includes the largest private gift in U.Va. history, $120 million, given last year by alumni Jaffray and Merrill Woodriff through their Quantitative Foundation to start a School of Data Science.
“We have donors who are fiercely loyal to the university and incredibly generous,” says Mark Luellen, vice president for advancement. “But one thing that’s different now is that instead of saying, ‘Give what you can to this general project,’ we are instead talking to them about, ‘What are your philanthropic passions?’ If they have a deep passion around research and autism, or they want to increase the study of English literature, these are goals that the university can help further and achieve.”
Another new element to this campaign is U.Va.’s provision of matching funds to increase scholarships and professorships. In the past few years, this strategy has helped bring in $300 million (including matching funds) for scholarships and has established 45 endowed faculty chairs.
“It’s been a game changer and really a new part of this campaign,” says Luellen. “People have been like, ‘If this is a priority for the university and you’re going to co-invest, then we’re also going to invest and we’re going to do this together.”
An illustration of how these strategies are making a difference is the October donation of $100 million by David and Jane Walentas. A U.Va. and Darden School of Business alum who built a real estate empire in New York, David Walentas has earmarked $75 million to provide scholarships for students who, like himself, are the first in their families to attend college. The board of visitors added $40 million in matching funds to the Walentas gift, significantly increasing its impact.