By Courtney Such, News Editor
As 2013 came to a close, so did Furman University’s 10-year fundraising campaign, exceeding the university’s goal by more than $6 million to bring in a grand total of $406 million.
The campaign, called “Because Furman Matters,” went public in the fall of 2007 after three years of silent fundraising brought in just $225,000. Six years, three presidents, one recession, and a two-year extension later, Mike Gatchell, Furman’s Vice President for Development, checked this campaign off as one of the more successful he has ever seen.
The money raised goes toward Furman’s endowment and has already helped fund a number of university improvements, Gatchell said, from scholarship funding and professorships to recent construction projects like the Townes Science Center and new sports facilities.
“You don’t just go raise money for [the] endowment. That doesn’t excite people, but what does excite people is scholarships, professorships,” Gatchell said. “It all goes to [the] endowment, but it goes to a more particular flavor of [the] endowment, and that’s what we started telling the story more on.”
The campaign suffered some difficulties due to the recession and changes in the presidency, but Furman worked through these changes to bring in new donors. For example, when former President Smolla was in office from 2010 to 2013, he attracted donors interested in athletics, leading to the construction of the new football complex and the addition of the lacrosse teams.
But with news of the fundraiser’s success coming as the university considers budget cuts, faculty and staff have been asking why the university still needs to make cuts after raising so much money.
Gatchell said that the money raised is not currently available in its entirety. The $406 million represents the sum total of all commitments, meaning that this money will be paid over a period of many years. A projected number of about $80 million will go towards the budget each year.
“Here’s an amazing thing: our faculty, part of what makes them good is they have strong opinions. Our faculty and staff … 80 percent gave to our campaign,” Gatchell said.
“They disagree and we debate, but by and large, this is a strong group we have here. The success of this campaign would not have happened without the broad base of support on this campus.”
Furman is already looking into the next phase of fundraising. The focus is simple: raise annual donations to help the endowment. Easier said than done, though, according to Gatchell.
“About 3.5 percent of the budget is covered through annual giving,” he said. “We want to do more. The more we can do, the more we can take pressure off of tuition.”
“The real spirit of this is to give money to what you care about,” Gatchell added.