Paul Lindsay was sitting at his desk when the phone rang. It was late 1984. Lindsay was serving double duty as associate vice president for University relations and director for planned giving. The caller, a trust officer representing a local bank, informed Lindsay that a generous donor, Clara Schawe, had left $7 million to Xavier, the first multi-million dollar gift in school history.
It was, Lindsay says, a small miracle—one of many such small miracles that have sustained and nurtured the University over 175 years. Indeed, Xavier has inspired the generosity of alumni and friends from its early days. Consider:
- In 1890, members of the newly created alumni association helped raise $100,000 for construction of a new building at the original Sycamore Street site downtown.
- The generosity of 1905 graduate Walter Schmidt is evident through the buildings that bear his name—Schmidt Hall and the Schmidt Fieldhouse.
- In April 1919, Mrs. Frederick W. Hinkle donated $100,000 for construction of Hinkle Hall.
But ongoing, strategically planned fundraising is relatively new to Xavier. Lindsay says it wasn’t until 1953 that the first annual fund solicitation took place—more than 120 years after the University’s founding. The annual fund now provides much of the University’s lifeblood—roughly $5.4 million a year. For its first several decades, however, the emphasis was merely on alumni participation, not increasing giving levels.
In those days, the bulk of the organized fundraising focused on Cincinnati, where most alumni lived. Each year, a small army of volunteers would split up the list of alumni and visit each one personally on what was designated “Xavier Sunday” to gather pledges. As the number of alumni grew, though, so did the challenges. For instance, the personal visits didn’t work as well in cities such as Chicago, where the volunteers were fewer and the geographic size greater, so an idea began that evolved into the phonathon.
The University had no level-of-giving recognition societies until about 1973, Lindsay says, when the Chimes Club, the Elet Society and The 1831 Society came into being. Of these, The 1831 Society flourished in its visibility and prestige. Membership today is open to donors who make leadership gifts of $1,000 or more to the annual fund. In fiscal year 2004-2005, those gifts topped $1.8 million, says Norah Mock, associate director for the annual fund.
Over the past two decades, planned giving has become yet another important component in the University’s fundraising efforts. Membership in the Father Finn Society, which recognizes those donors who make provisions for Xavier in their wills, has grown significantly in recent years.
Although periodic fund drives pepper Xavier history, the first modern full-scale capital campaign didn’t happen until 1970 with the Advancement Fund, which raised $7.2 million. Since then, three more capital campaigns have followed—the Sesquicentennial, Cornerstone and Century campaigns, raising $8.4, $31.5 and $125 million, respectively. A fifth kicks off in 2006.
As the University has grown, so has its approach to giving. Modern marketing, with publications, a paid staff and an effective phonathon program, has replaced the as-regular-as-the-budget-allowed alumni newsletter and door-to-door volunteers. Computers now track alumni, and online giving is a reality. Equally important, strong trustees like Robert Kohlhepp, Mike Conaton and Charles Gallagher have set powerful new standards of giving, in the process inspiring others to give. These days, the average annual fund gift is $200. In the fiscal year ending June 1, 2005, annual fund contributions raised about $6 million of the University’s total gift income of almost $18 million.
But, while acknowledging that Xavier has progressed in many meaningful ways during the last decade, Gary Massa, vice president for University relations, says that today’s higher education marketplace is intensely competitive and there’s much to be done.
“Our endowment, for instance, is woefully inadequate,” Massa says. “Additionally, as our physical plant continues to expand, so do operational costs. Therefore it’s critical for us to grow our annual fund. And, as the campus master plan is finalized, the possibilities for an even stronger, more vital Xavier are apparent.
“Without the growth and success over the last decade, we couldn’t have the dream we have for the next decade and beyond. The upcoming campaign will transform both the campus and our academic platform more dramatically than any other initiative in the University’s history.”