In the recently released presidential prospectus, Emory announced that the University is in the “silent stage” of a capital campaign.
In a March 1 interview with the Wheel, Emory Advancement and Alumni Engagement Assistant Vice President and Chief of Staff Mathew Pinson spoke about the campaign, a major fundraising project that is expected to commence following the appointment of the next University president.
Though Pinson did not specify concrete goals of the campaign, Emory’s last major fundraising campaign, Campaign Emory, raised $1.69 billion. Historically Emory’s capital campaigns have funded various needs of the University, including the construction of Emory’s earliest buildings and its ever-growing research grants. The first capital campaign in 1848 allowed the University to lay the cornerstone for the first large stone building on campus.
Pinson, Senior Associate Vice President for Strategic Communications Cutler Andrews and Director of University Leadership Engagement and Projects Alison Short are part of Emory’s administrative staff responsible for the capital campaign.
As it pertains to Emory’s presidential prospectus, Pinson said that the next president has the potential to play a big role in prioritizing focus points of funding.
“You can think of it as a centralized rally, so that each school and area across campus doesn’t feel like they are off doing their own thing,” Short said. “That rally is really important and I think that is what they are speaking to in the prospectus.”
According to Short, fundraising during a silent stage is not very different than fundraising during a “public stage” of a capital campaign. Short said that most universities are in a constant campaign cycle, focusing on funding anything from expendable money used across campus, programmatic needs or even growth of the endowment.
Without a campaign, Emory raised an average of $376 million per year between 2017 and 2019, according to the presidential prospectus.
According to Short, capital campaigns take a more targeted strategy, focusing on donors with “more philanthropic capacity” and on specific goals like a scholarship or new building. Pinson said a constant campaign cycle targeting bigger donors is not Emory’s only aim.
Pinson said that fundraising is becoming less about setting fiscal goals like in the past and more about establishing a “conversational” process. Pinson contextualized the shift in strategy through an anecdote about what it means to walk across Emory’s campus.
“You’ve got a group of undergraduates reading on the Quad, helicopters landing on hospitals, countless pieces of research coming from all around you. We are fortunate to be a part of this,” Pinson said. “How to make Emory meaningful – those are the things our partners and our fundraising make possible.”
Pinson said that specific monetary priorities of the campaign will not be made public until the public phase of the campaign, but Andrews said that the following months will be spent focusing holistically on the wants of the campus, looking to the needs of students and of various divisions to gauge where to target fundraising. Pinson added that the Board of Trustees and the next University president will be involved in the decision to move the campaign into its public stage.
During the remainder of the silent stage, the three strategists will engage focus groups and meet with representatives of Emory’s schools and student leaders to better understand the needs and priorities of each division of the University. Pinson added that the campaign staff will meet with a variety of outside stakeholders, including foundation partners and philanthropists who have worked in the past with Emory.
“Most people really want the big splashy dollar, but that’s really not what it’s about – that’s heresy in our world,” Pinson said. “It’s not about the ‘big total’ but about what it represents — the people that it is impacting.”