USC Ramps Up Campaign to Raise $6 Billion

USC Ramps Up Campaign to Raise $6 Billion

The University of Southern California is looking to add staff and aggressively award naming rights as it pursues the most ambitious publicly announced fundraising goal in the history of U.S. higher education, the Los Angeles Times reports.

Made public in August, with the university having raised about 17 percent of its goal, the Campaign for the University of Southern California hopes to raise $6 billion by 2018; typically, universities wait until they have received commitments of at least 40 percent of their goal before publicly announcing a campaign. But at a time when many colleges and universities are struggling with budget cuts and shrinking endowments, the campaign, which has raised $1.4 billion to date, has generated a good deal of controversy. Indeed, some have been startled by the full-page thank-you ads the university has placed in local and national newspapers and magazines, while others have expressed concern about the growing number of naming opportunities on campus.

C.L. Max Nikias, who succeeded Steven B. Sample as president of USC in 2010, told the Times that while he understands the timing of the campaign couldn't be worse, he is "not afraid to take that risk" in order to boost the university's endowment and help it achieve "academically elite status."

To that end, the university plans to double its development staff to four hundred by the end of next year, establish offices in Chicago and Dallas, and continue raising funds abroad through alumni offices in cities across Asia. The university is focusing its fundraising efforts on living alumni, in particular about 50,000 people, companies, and foundations which it believes are able to give $100,000 or more.

"Coming out with a $6 billion goal certainly generated a lot of conversation in the field, and they did it in a very bold and brash way," Donald Fellows, president of the fundraising consulting firm Marts & Lundy, told the Times. "But that is a part of the makeup of USC and is different from the way the Ivy Leagues might treat that kind of thing."

Larry Gordon. "USC Pursues Aggressive Fundraising Effort Despite Hard Times." Los Angeles Times 12/29/2011.