Chapel Hill News

UNC’s fundraising record paves the way for major campaign

UNC-Chapel Hill officials celebrated their record fundraising year Wednesday with a party and a promise to gear up an expected seven-year campaign.

The university landed $447 million in donations and commitments in the fiscal year that ended June 30 – an increase of 44 percent over the previous year. UNC-Chapel Hill is in the silent phase of a multi-year drive to raise money. The ultimate goal has not been announced, and probably won’t be until an official launch in 2017.

Chancellor Carol Folt said the previous annual record was $342.8 million in 2008.

“I’d say we had a pretty loud year in a quiet year of our campaign,” Folt said to a crowd of deans, administrators and development staff.

The record was largely achieved through a $100 million pledge to the pharmacy school from pharmaceutical entrepreneur Fred Eshelman. But there were other successes, including a record year for the medical school, a $5 million anonymous gift to the College of Arts and Sciences and a $7.1 million pledge to the School of Government from the Local Government Credit Union.

The total was a relief to Folt and others at UNC after last year’s investigation that revealed damaging details about the athletic and academic scandals that have dogged the university. The campus has been placed on probation by its accrediting body and has been charged with major allegations from the NCAA.

“It helped us find our confidence in a time when some were concerned,” Folt said of the campaign. “That was an incredible vote of confidence from people.”

There is still a long way to go, said David Routh, vice chancellor for university development. The campus has about 300 development staffers, and Routh reminded them Wednesday that they started at square one on July 1. “Every single year, we roll back to zero,” he said.

Folt said student scholarships would be a focus as the university tries to maintain affordability. She spoke on that topic last week at the National Press Club, describing the Carolina Covenant debt-free program for low-income students. At the end of the event, she said, a man pressed a small piece of paper in her hand; it was a pledge for $100,000 for the Covenant.

Fundraising increasingly provides fuel to private and public universities. Duke University is in the midst of a $3.25 billion drive. The University of Virginia recently raised $3 billion; UCLA last year launched a $4.2 billion campaign.

Jane Stancill: 919-829-4559, @janestancill