These wise men come for big gifts Raising funds is critical business for colleges, universities


At St. Mary's College, they call them "the madrigals."

On three consecutive nights in early December, the Southern Maryland college entertained every constituency in its orbit with cocktails, dinner and songs of the season. Guests at the black-tie finale were college trustees and important people from the Baltimore and Washington areas. They came to hear the student madrigal choir and be entertained.

They also came to be solicited.

"The madrigals show our constituencies what the college is all about," said Kay Redington, St. Mary's associate vice president in charge of fund raising. "They showcase our students and our campus. They say to those who have given, 'This is the product so far.' And they cultivate good will among those who haven't yet given, the pre-donors, if you will."

Similar events are repeated across Maryland and the United States as fund raising becomes ever more important -- indeed, urgent -- in higher education.

Of the three sources of college income -- government subsidies, tuition and philanthropy -- only the third, according to most experts, is a realistic potential source of substantially increased funding in the late '90s. So every college is planning or engaged in a campaign much more ambitious than the routine annual solicitation of alumni.

"No longer does anyone sit around waiting for big money to come in," said Judy Jolley Mohraz, president of Goucher College.

A major new player in fund raising is the University of Maryland, whose Board of Regents chairman, Lance Billingsley, has put development officers on notice: produce or find work elsewhere.

"We haven't been nearly as aggressive as we should have been," said Mr. Billingsley, a lawyer and close associate of Gov. Parris N. Glendening. "We've got to get out to individuals, to businesses, chambers of commerce and tourist bureaus. We've got to say, 'We've helped you. Now you help us.' "

Major campaigns starting

After years of modest fund raising, the university system is about to launch a major campaign designed to double endowment levels and alumni giving by 2002.

That will put UM in the same league as the private colleges and universities, which for years have made a science of fund raising.

Competition is intense. The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers reports 30 campaigns by education organizations (seven of them colleges) in the Baltimore area this year. These organizations seek $399 million, up from $306 million last year. That doesn't include the mammoth $900 million campaign by the Johns Hopkins University, which has achieved 55 percent of its goal with four years to go in the drive.

"Hopkins is the 500-pound gorilla," said Martha Scholz, director of institutional advancement at the College of Notre Dame, one of several schools studying the feasibility of a major campaign.

That's true. Next in line -- and way down the line -- are schools like Hood (which has just completed a campaign, raising $59 million), Loyola, Goucher and Western Maryland colleges. Loyola announced last month that it had exceeded its five-year, $40 million goal three months ahead of schedule.

Western Maryland and Goucher won't formally announce their campaigns, each expected to seek about $40 million, until next year, but Goucher has raised more than half of its goal in the so-called "silent phase" -- the period before the publicity splash when a school solicits trustees, friends and foundations for major gifts.

Western Maryland's drive is scheduled to conclude at the century's last second on Dec. 31, 1999. "The campaign will be the centerpiece of my life for the rest of the century," said Robert Chambers, the school's president.

Political impacts

The need to solicit has altered the criteria that boards of trustees use in seeking presidents. Three of the area's newest college leaders -- Dr. Mohraz at Goucher, Shirley D. Peterson at Hood College in Frederick and George R. Houston Jr. at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg -- were selected in large part because they had demonstrated fund-raising success in previous jobs.

Neither Ms. Peterson, a former commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, nor Mr. Houston, a certified public accountant, came from a teaching background. Mr. Houston was hired largely because of his spectacular record as a fund-raiser at Georgetown University, where he multiplied the endowment 21-fold in 24 years.

Mr. Houston has a reputation to live up to, and he clearly relishes it. "The Mount" is actually looking at two campaigns, one with a theme around the millennium, the other around the school's bicentennial in 2008.

"I enjoy fund raising," he said. "I don't consider it begging. I look at it as an opportunity to invest in the future of the Catholic BTC Church, in the republic and in the professions. All of that is positive. But you have to work hard at it. You don't raise money by sitting in Emmitsburg."

Clearly, the fund-raising burden falls heavily on presidents. Mr. Houston said he "anticipated spending a third to half of my time fund raising."

That proportion seems to be consistent across the board. "I'm constantly on the road," said Dr. Mohraz of Goucher College. "It does get wearying, but it also is satisfying. One of the things you learn quickly in this business is that people with financial resources want to do something worthwhile with their dollars."

Diverse sources important

Corporate and government sources are no less important. Every president is looking for the kind of donation announced in October by Hugh McColl, chief of the giant NationsBank Corp., to the College of Business and Management at the University of Maryland College Park. Mr. McColl, surrounded by smiling bank and university executives, gave $500,000 to endow faculty research and student scholarships.

UMCP President William E. Kirwan was among those instrumental in corraling the NationsBank grant. He isn't the only UM executive constantly on the lookout for funds. Coppin State College President Calvin Burnett said this year that he plans to delegate more authority so that he can devote more time to "something I've found difficult to do in the past" -- raise money. Coppin, which raised $263,000 in the past fiscal year, hopes to raise $500,000 by July.

The grind can get to a president. It is fraught with uncertainty. In Baltimore, many companies that were sources of income have )) merged or moved out of state, which is why the grant from Charlotte, N.C.-based NationsBank, parent of what used to be ++ Maryland National Bank, was so pleasing to UM officials.

"Baltimore is becoming something of a branch-office town," said Zanvyl Krieger, the 89-year-old philanthropist who recently committed $50 million to Hopkins. Many of the corporate chief executive officers and presidents who were reliable sources of philanthropy, he said, have died or moved.

Some serve dual purpose

George L. Bunting Jr., former president of Noxell Corp. who has given large amounts to several schools and charities in the Baltimore area, said some of the slack in giving by individuals has been taken up by increased foundation grants from the likes of the Abell and Baltimore Community foundations.

Mr. Bunting is one of several men and women who are at once major contributors and solicitors. He raises money for the institutions, such as the Maryland Institute, College of Art, on whose boards he sits, and he gives generously to them as well. Perhaps the champion in this category is Michael R. Bloomberg, the financial news magnate who heads the $900 million campaign at Hopkins, to which he pledged $55 million in October.

Then there's the increased competition. Everyone is in the act, and no one knows when the philanthropic market will be saturated.

Public universities are only part of it. Catonsville Community College, for example, launched its first campaign this year. Private elementary-secondary schools -- McDonogh, Calvert Hall, Gilman, Park and others -- are in major drives. And this doesn't take into account arts and culture, health, social services and traditional charities. In all, according to Baltimore Area Grantmakers, organizations of all kinds are trying to raise some $128 million more this year than they did in 1994.

Fund-raising pressure was at least partly responsible for the retirement of Edward T. Lewis, president of St. Mary's College, who will leave office next summer. It wasn't the difficulty of raising bucks, he said.

"It's not as hard as many perceive it to be," he said. "For some people, giving to their colleges is one of the gratifying events in their lives. No one was ever insulted by being asked for too large a donation."

Hypocrisy and manipulation

Rather, what bothered Dr. Lewis was the hypocrisy of the "closing" of a contributor, the moment when he or she is convinced to write a check or commit to a donation. That transaction, which Dr. Lewis said strayed from "cultivation" to "manipulation," bothered him. "We in fund raising begin to judge people by their net worth rather than their value," he said.

But Dr. Lewis said something that explains the attitude of Mr. Krieger, one of Baltimore's most generous philanthropists since the Pratts, Walters and Johns Hopkins himself. "People who give lots of money are as generous as always in this atmosphere," Dr. Lewis said.

"I'm approached by many organizations," Mr. Krieger said, "and I have to be selective. I can't give to everyone. I do it [make the selections] on my own. I don't have any set rules for how I give.

"I figure you're only on this Earth for a limited number of years, and you might as well get as much satisfaction as you can before you die. The lines of communication from 6 feet under aren't that good."

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