Shaping Our Future increases fundraising goal

Courtesy Photo /
Donna Brooks, a co-chair of shaping our future, David G. Frey, Mary Caroline (Twink) Frey, and President Haas

Courtesy Photo / Donna Brooks, a co-chair of shaping our future, David G. Frey, Mary Caroline (Twink) Frey, and President Haas

Samantha Butcher

Grand Valley State University’s Shaping Our Future campaign has increased its fundraising goal to $75 million after surpassing the original $50 million objective a year ahead of schedule.

With $10 million left to raise, University Development Vice President Maribeth Wardrop said that although funds have become more difficult to obtain as the campaign has gone on, she believes it will be successful.

“You always go to your closest friends first, so they truly understand the need and the support,” she said. “As you go further in your goal, your friends are further away from the university, and it’s a little more difficult. I have to say, we’ve had great momentum and are having just extraordinary success. We will reach that extra 10 million.”

Shaping Our Future is the university’s first comprehensive fundraising campaign, offering investors with a variety of choices for their capital. The original campaign goals included funds for the Mary Idema Pew library and the Kennedy Center downtown, as well as endowments to the Hauenstein Center for Presidential Studies, the Johnson Center for Philanthropy and a number of student scholarships.

President Thomas J. Haas explained the reasoning behind the campaign.

“When I came here four years ago, the Development Office was doing some things that were very successful project by project, but I talked to Maribeth my first year and I said we have a 50th year coming up, and there are people who want to give to Grand Valley that might not be interested in a particular project, so let’s be more comprehensive,” Haas said. “Basically you’re providing choices to people to invest in Grand Valley that could be scholarship or bricks and sticks.”

Along with the new fundraising goal, University Development added several new projects to the campaign. The largest of these projects will be a new building on GVSU’s downtown campus that will house classrooms and academic offices for the growing Seidman College of Business. The campaign, part of GVSU’s 50th Anniversary celebration, ends in June 2011.

Members of the administration expressed confidence in the program’s success as well as its importance. Jim Bachmeier, vice president of the Finance and Administration department, said he believed the program was instrumental in strengthening GVSU’s relationship with the community.

“The community ultimately is folks who provide jobs and support and bring money that would otherwise have to come from tuition dollars and scholarship dollars to support our growing enrollment,” he said.

For Wardrop, the strongest selling point for the campaign was the need for a new library.

“Obviously, our first library was built in the 1960s for a few thousand students; we have close to 25,000 students right now,” she said. “Those facts right there speak for themselves. When I go to donors and I drop that, when you say why do you need a library and I explain those facts and when I explain that 50 years later we still have this same space, you hardly have to say much more than that.”

The majority of donations to the campaign have come from alumni and private donors in the community, but more than half of GVSU’s faculty and staff have also made monetary gifts. Faculty donations in campaigns at other universities nationwide average less than 20 percent.

“That’s a wow in my opinion,” Haas said of the participation level among staff. “I think that is a remarkable display of what is important to our faculty and staff.”

While it remains to be seen whether the campaign will hit $75 million, Haas said he believes it has already been a success in other regards.

“I know that we were successful in terms of attracting more donors to embrace Grand Valley as their own,” he said. “That’s a measure of success and I’m so proud of that. The faculty coming in at 50 percent, I’m so proud of that. Now what we’ll see is in June, did we hit the target? I think we’re on track to do that.”

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