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UC Magazine

Proudly Cincinnati in national spotlight

Fundraising campaign exceeds $1 billion, 100,000 donors

by Phil Kanet, A&S ’98, M (A&S) ’00
UC Foundation director of communications

Bold? How about a goal of $1 billion?
Strong? Surpassing that goal a full five months ahead of schedule.
Ambitious? Totaling 100,000 donors by the campaign’s end.

Those three words were the hallmark of the “Proudly Cincinnati” campaign since its inception. But a new adjective became appropriate as the campaign closed on June 30, 2013:

Prestigious — because the final numbers placed UC in the top 2 percent of U.S. universities and colleges to have successfully completed a fundraising campaign in excess of $1 billion.

Over the last eight years, the entire UC community came together to make history and help UC take its place among the nation’s premier institutions of higher education. Traditionally, top fundraising honors have been reserved for the likes of Stanford, Harvard and Yale, but when it comes to raising $1 billion, only 68 universities out of more than 4,100 have done so. And for UC, it was a tremendous leap from UC’s prior campaign high of not quite $329 million.

In July 2005, a feasibility study indicated that the “Proudly Cincinnati” campaign was capable of raising approximately $750 million. The campaign planning committee decided to stretch the goal to $800 million. By the time the university’s Board of Trustees and the UC Foundation’s Board of Trustees invested more than $84 million into the campaign’s nucleus fund, momentum had carried the goal to $1 billion, as was announced at the public kickoff in October 2008.

A daunting task in and of itself, the heft of raising $1 billion was compounded by one of the worst economic climates our country has seen. Plus, university changes were rampant: major athletic conference shifts, three presidents, an academic-calendar conversion from quarters to semesters and major facility renovations.

Through it all, the campaign maintained enough energy to raise $1,090,626,798 and enlarge UC’s support base until it exceeded 100,000 donors. “This great university has become a place that sets big goals, then exceeds expectations,” says campaign co-chair Buck Niehoff, JD ’72. “That is how we do things. The community should be very proud that we are a place that dreams big and achieves even more.”

Interestingly enough, the 100,000 donors may be the most pivotal number for the university’s future. “I was absolutely ecstatic about reaching 100,000 donors,” said President Santa Ono. “Of course, we are thrilled to grow our donor base in terms of philanthropic dollars raised, but to me, having that many individuals, corporations, foundations and others pledge their support makes a strong statement about the incredible impact the University of Cincinnati has throughout so many segments of our community.”

The significance of that number partly lies in what it says about UC’s evolving alumni base. Historically, UC has always been able to build pride within the city with which it shares a name. Opportunities for alumni engagement outside of Cincinnati, however, had been sparse prior to “Proudly Cincinnati.”

Campaign volunteers were determined to change that. Eleven different regions of the country were identified as key areas for alumni, and regional campaign chairs were appointed in each. In turn, the chairs recruited teams of volunteers who began identifying UC’s extensive impact in their cities, such as New York, Dallas and Cleveland/Akron.

Ultimately, regional volunteers played a huge part in taking UC beyond $1 billion. In Washington, D.C., for instance, the regional campaign reached its initial $8 million goal more than two years early. That led D.C.’s campaign chairman Todd DeGarmo, DAAP ’82, to raise the regional goal, and the area finished the campaign with nearly $20.5 million.

In Chicago, regional chair Robert Fealy, Bus ’73, dedicated personnel to coordinate their efforts, resulting in a final campaign tally of more than $10 million. Extraordinary volunteers like these not only brought in regional gifts totaling nearly $260 million but established incredibly strong networks to build upon in the future.

“For the past 35 years, I have been part of a lot of fundraising campaigns, including for political races, cancer research and the Mercantile Library,” Niehoff says. “Unlike those much smaller campaigns, ‘Proudly Cincinnati’ required a huge group of volunteers and a large professional staff. For the first time, I was part of a large fundraising organization.

“It was fun helping to recruit all the people. But what was most satisfying was watching everyone come together and become totally committed to achieving our goals.”

To understand how critical the campaign has been, remember that at one time private support on college campuses provided only a supplemental stream of revenue, one often reserved for capital needs. In contrast, it is a vital component of all university budgets today. 

Consequently, the Foundation has set a precedent for generating private support at a level that will help continue to inspire UC’s collective success. “Reaching the objective was not the end, but the beginning,” says campaign co-chair Otto Budig Jr., Bus ’56, HonDoc ’09. “I’m inspired by the generosity and passion our donors displayed, and I’m proud to serve the university that has given so much to me.”

Niehoff explains it with a personal story. “Once I was working out at the Rec Center, and a student came over to me and said, ‘I’ve seen your picture. I want to thank you. Without what you’ve done, I wouldn’t be here.’ I almost cried.

“Giving allows you to dream about making the world better and to help make changes happen. You become part of something bigger than yourself. It’s a humbling feeling, but very exciting.”

This issue of UC Magazine is dedicated to the role philanthropy plays in UC’s success — from students who use scholarships to carve out amazing careers to researchers who use private support to save lives and create undreamed-of innovations.

Inspiration is the first step toward improving the human condition, and we hope that you find your own inspiration through the stories of these remarkable individuals.

What is the money being used for?

  • $177.8 million to solidify UC’s research enterprises.
  • $162 million to strengthen the Academic Health Center and UC Health programs.
  • 23 chairs were endowed in diverse areas, including entrepreneurship, design, tort law and Alzheimer’s research.
  • New and upgraded facilities, such as the Engineering Alumni Learning Center and the Sheakley Athletics Center, went from ambitious visions to reality. 

Where did the money come from?

  • Faculty and staff (current and retired) gave more than $65 million.
  • 53,687 donors made their first gifts to UC.
  • 16,384 donors gave multiple campaign gifts.
  • Greater Cincinnati gifts exceeded $455.2 million.

Proudly Cincinnati Billion and Beyond Graphic

Regional giving

  • New York — $21,259,436
  • Washington, D.C. — $20,430,788
  • Northern California — $13,680,757
  • Southern California — $12,326,388
  • Florida — $11,259,287
  • Dallas — $10,769,061
  • Chicago — $10,084,766
  • Cleveland/Akron — $9,028,251
  • Phoenix — $5,853,406
  • Columbus — $5,617,043
  • Pittsburgh — $5,497,185
  • Dayton — $4,833,204
  • Atlanta — $3,329,782
  • Houston — $2,740,921
  • Indianapolis — $1,824,498