Baylor University is hoping its two-year streak of fundraising success will continue to fund a new $320 million campaign to support academic initiatives and construction projects.
Athletics in many ways has been a driving force in the swell of donations to the university. Regent emeritus Drayton McLane Jr.’s lead gift for the $266 million McLane Stadium paved the way to an unprecedented $345.3 million influx of donations to Baylor, funding projects like a new business school, new track and field stadium, and student scholarships.
Now, the university is focused on steering new gifts toward academic programming through its “From Here We Build” fundraising campaign. The university already has received $56 million since kicking off the effort in March, with about half of those contributions designated for student scholarships, said Ken Hall, Baylor’s senior vice president for development and strategic initiatives.
“This was a situation where all Baylor boats were rising,” Baylor President and Chancellor Ken Starr said. “So we’re thankful for that and we want to build on the sense of commitment and excitement to now highlight with even greater intensity programs that are so important to the future of the university.”
Major projects for the new campaign include raising another $100 million for scholarships; $40 million for a new campus for the Dallas-based Louise Herrington School of Nursing; $20 million for a new alumni events center connected to McLane Stadium; $100 million for academic programming, endowed professorships, student life enhancements and career development services; and $60 million for yet-to-be-determined capital construction.
“What athletics does for you is give you an opportunity to gather the family regularly and often where you can communicate all the good things that are happening and also point to the needs and the new challenges we need to be underwriting,” Hall said.
“Having 40,000 to 50,000 fans every week for six weeks in a fall really is good, particularly when we’re winning and they’re really happy. There’s a Bible verse that says, ‘The Lord loves a cheerful giver.’ Well, there’s a lot of truth to that.”
Starr said building scholarship support for students is his primary focus moving into the future as Baylor looks to limit tuition increases.
Baylor’s board of regents in July set tuition and fees for the 2015-16 school year at $40,198, a 5.45-percent increase over rates for the upcoming school year. But Hall noted that it is the smallest annual tuition increase Baylor has approved during the past decade, and the university has set a five-year goal of restricting tuition hikes to no more than 4 percent each year.
Starr created a three-year $100 million Presidential Scholarship Initiative when he started at Baylor in August 2010, meeting the fundraising goal four months ahead of schedule.
“First and foremost, we’re a university, and a university depends upon a genuine commitment to academic excellence. And from the students’ perspective, it depends upon access and affordability,” Starr said. “Those are the twin goals that we focus on.”
Starr said donors are increasingly including scholarship contributions as part of large gifts to other campus projects. For example, alumnus and retired physician Dr. Thomas Rosenbalm in July gave an $8 million gift to remodel the Fifth Street corridor on campus and required that a portion of the funds be used for scholarships.
The university also plans to renew efforts to court donations for endowed professor chairs. Such endowments allow Baylor to attract esteemed researchers and professors in a given field or hire new faculty without placing a greater strain on operating budgets, Starr said.
Hall said Baylor leaders have been conscious of the potential for donor fatigue, or causing the current base of contributors to become weary of giving more. For example, the university leaned heavily on business school alumni to raise the full $100 million needed to build the new home for the Hankamer School of Business, which should open in July 2015.
The university plans to reach out more to parents of current students and alumni to encourage them to become first-time and eventually steady donors to Baylor, Hall said.
The priorities for the “From Here We Build” campaign were set using feedback from the administration, deans, faculty and key stakeholders. Hall said the university will look to donors to guide the focus for new capital construction as Baylor anticipates investing at least $60 million in new campus facilities.
That same approach led to the quick movement to build the new Paul L. Foster Campus for Business and Innovation. Foster, a business school alumni and executive board chairman of Western Refining Co., gave a $35 million gift last year with instructions that $25 million to be used for a new business school and $10 million go towards the construction of McLane Stadium.
“Momentum builds on momentum, and right now the university is at a good place,” Hall said. “There’s so many good things going on. There’s stability, but there’s also a sense that Baylor is riding a crest of success. That helps the donor base come along, but we’ve just got to keep that going.”