32: Funding a 10-Figure Capital Campaign at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign w/ Jon Salvani

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Jon Salvani, Director of Advancement and Team Lead for Chicago Regional Advancement Team at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, discusses how to game plan for a 10-figure capital campaign using key market approaches, creative fundraising opportunities, advancement ambassadors, and more.

You're listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education, the best professional development podcast for higher education leaders looking to grow enrollment at their college or university. Whether you're looking for fresh enrollment growth techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to enrollment growth university, a proud member of the connected to you podcast network. I'm Eric Olson, AVP of marketing at Helix Education, and we're here today with John Silvani, director of advancement and team lead for Chicago Regional Advancement team at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champagne. John, welcome to the show. Thanks Eric. Thanks for having me. John and I were former colleagues together at Lewis University near Chicago and I'm super excited to talk with him today about his work at the University of Illinois and how they're approaching a ten figure capital campaign. But before we dig into that, John, can you get the listeners a little bit better understanding of both your role and the University of Illinois? Yeah, so University of Illinois or banish Champaign, but it's the flagship institution here at the State of Illinois. Are Land Grant University located in Urbana Champaign, Central Illinois. Here in the State of Illinois, my role as director of advancement and team lead, I manage our Chicago regional advancement program for the Urbana champaign campus. So our charge is to do fundraising alumni engagement here in the Chicago area. We have a third of our alumni base, over a hundred and Seventyzero alums here in the city and the surrounding suburbs and the eight color counties. So obviously a very daunting task, but that's our teams charge and we're located actually in downtown Chicago at our line center, which is our regional office for the university. Awesome, John, as a public are one school, only about twelve percent of your funding comes from the State of Illinois. Talk about at high level how critical philanthropic giving is to augment in Roman revenue. Yeah, you know, it is huge for us, and I'm not even just for the University of Illinois in general, but a lot of our state. Our state peers are also seeing the importance of that. You know, philanthropic giving is what really helps us create funding opportunities to recruit students. You know, I did not even just recruiting students, but retaining students, whether it's in the form of scholarships or program funding. It also even you take that at the faculty level. This gives them, give us an opportunity for us to recruit key faculty members to the university through professorships, through endowed chairs. So philanthropy is is a huge part of what we're trying to do. Since the State of Illinois, and one of the things that I think is a thought out there that most people believe is that the state of Illinois provides the university a majority of its funding, and that's not really the case and over the last fifteen years, you know, that revenue...

...has decreased over time and so in order to fill that gap, philanthropy is going to be very important and and luckily for many of us working in these roles at identifying the opportunities with donors. It gives not just the donor the opportunity to make that impact here at our university, but it allows us to be able to provide those impact opportunities to the students in faculty and the recipients of that generosity. Your current with Illinois campaign is a two and a quarter billion dollar capital campaign. As you're planning that out from an allocation standpoint, from a goal setting standpoint, where do you envision it all coming from? Between Small and large gifts, new donors versus existing donors, alums versus, you know, corporations in a state gifts? How do you create a game plan for how this is all going to happen? That's a very good question, Erica. You know, it is a I mean two and a quarter billion. I mean that's a daunting number. This is probably the biggest fundraising campaign that I've been a part of in my career. Obviously, this is the to a quarter billion dollar campaign is just for the University of Illinois, or ban a champaign. That doesn't include the other universities within the University of Illinois System, right. So that's just for us here at Urbana and that is, as you can see, a pretty daunting number. So there is a lot of a lot of strategy involved. You know. They we just went into the public phase of our campaign this past October. So we got five years remaining to this campaign and so we've been in silent phase now for the last few years and luckily for us at this point now we're about halfway to our goal, and that's big right. Oh, actually, I would say probably over halfway at this point. So for us, you know, planning this out, you know setting your goals. Our operation is a very centralized decentralized model, where you have a centralized unit like myself, which supports the entire campus, all of our colleges, all of our academic units, degree granting, nondegree granting, even athletics. We work based upon those units who have their own advancement shops. So many of our individual colleges have their own advancement team working in them solely for their college, you know, and for their units, and so we have to work closely with them in order to make sure that what we're trying to do is also meeting their fundraising priorities and what their goals are for the campaign. You know, where do we envision it all? Coming from all over the place, you know, from from our recent grads to our established season professionals out there who are graduates from our institution, from our corporate partners. You know, one of the things we're trying to do more of here in Chicago is connecting with our corporations and using our alumni as champions in those efforts, you know, and a lot of it is it with our existing donors, asking them to if they would consider making another gift in support of our campaign in order to help us achieve that goal. We have a group in our foundation, Eric that that helps us with gift planning and a state gifts, you know, everything from your...

...bequests and remembering us in your will to, you know, ways that we can make charitable gift a nuities or charitable remainder trusts work for those donors interested in doing that. There's plenty of opportunities there where we can work closely with our donors to make that experience not just easy for them, but in a way where they feel that it's again going back to impact and making it impactful not just for them but for the recipients of their generosity. So it's going to really come from everywhere and you know, you asked about creating a game plan on how this is going to happen. A lot of folks involved, you know this is this campaign cannot be solely done by one or two people, right. So there are are hundreds of folks who are involved in this from marketing standpoint, from a donor strategy standpoint, to a to just even getting the message out there about our our campaign. So creating a game plan is important, but obviously there's a lot of factors and parts in that and and that campaign plan is always, I consider Eric, pretty fluid. You know, you never know what can happen to years from now. You know, back in the early thousand who would have thought that we would have had a market crash or, you know, Acom bubble burst or anything else like that. That right. So you know, a lot of those plans, even though we think it's a great plan now, two years from now it may need some adjusting. You know, some of the plans that we had here just in Chicago two years ago need adjusting now because we've had some you know, some new opportunities pop up, some changes where we've got some new support coming through and changing our game plan and strategy. So I think there's a lot of moving parts but ultimately, at the end everybody's got the same goal in mind. We need to make that campaign a success. Let's talk about your key market approach for fundraising and the specific team that you're over. So a third of you, of is alumni base is located in the Chicago Metro area. How do you think about targeting not just individuals but an entire city? Yeah, you know, and that's one of the reasons why our team is in place here. About Gosh, Eric, I want to say about six years ago there was talk from the university about expanding our presence in Chicago. We had this a line center here for at that time, close to six seven years. You know, it was one of those opportunities where we knew our Chicago market needed more attention, and so for us it was creating a team here, and actual team we used to have developed. We had development officers here, but a lot of them were either unit based or we probably had maybe one or two that were specifically in a central type role like we are today. So it was first having the dedication to and support to create a team here and then putting a team in place, which my predecessor at the time brought me on board here and then we brought on a couple other folks and more development officers at our charge was basically to be the boots on the ground here in the Chicago area. We ended up bringing on...

...a marketing and communication professional specifically charged with not just helping for the marketing and communication for the university and working with our advancement office and our public affairs office, but his key strategy is to how do we do that here more effectively in Chicago, and that's not just from a billboard perspective or signs across the city, it's how do we work with our media partners? How do we work with the newspapers, television and all that to be sure our message is coming across. So, you know, my team is in charge of doing that and I have development officers and administrative professionals here that helped me. Or we're our charges to go in and do fundraising here in Chicago. We manage our alumni ambassador board, our line eye leadership council, you know, things like that to make sure we're getting the message out. And again, you know, when you talk about a hundred and Seventyzero alums here in the Chicago area, third of our alumni base being here in the Chicago metropolitan area, it's going to take a lot more than just, you know, a small team to really do that. And so for us to partner up with our campus colleagues and friends there in Champagne. Gives us the opportunity to not just do our own touch points but work with them to do their touch points as well, to try to cover as much as we can, not just here in the city but throughout the surrounding suburb so it is a daunting task, but we are very fortunate that we have the support of our senior leadership there on campus to make that possible here in Chicago and everybody understands the importance of us being able to make sure we continue keeping our presence here in the Chicago area strong. You mentioned how how critical marketing is from a brandon marketing perspective. This, this campaign isn't a one off creative execution. Your marketing team, your central Marcom team, is treating this for what it is, a massive marketing campaign. What particular marketing support are you looking for from your central unit in order to be successful? Yeah, you know, one of the things we we continue to talk about weekly, in fact I just had a conversation about this yesterday, is how do we continue to just keep the message relevant and and out there? And now that we've embarked on this with Illinois campaign. You know, one of the things we need to have as a vessel for continued marketing messages about the campaign out here, whether it is campaign launch events, which is what we're thinking about doing throughout the country. We did one here in Chicago back in December which was I thought, very successful. Great message coming out there and not not US asking them to give money while they were there, but to show them what the with Illinois campaign is all about and if they would hopefully consider at some point wanted to support it. Right. So, know, things like that, having our billboards, you know, something as simple as billboards across some of our major major interstates and major intersection points here within the city and suburbs to make sure that people are still seeing Illinois out there and strategically placing them in spots where, you know, it feels like they're seeing us all over the place, but we're at the same time, we're just moving the signs all around. You know,...

...it's things like that, right. But being able to not just do that, but to be able to have our campus, our campus colleagues and friends continuing to have a presence here, you know, making themselves visible. It's all about visibility for us because, as we all know, especially for folks who are in the marketing arena, it's all about visual and perception, right and being able to see. You know, if you they see it more, they know about it more. You know, they may tend to even look into it even more. Right. So I think for us, and and luckily for us, we have a campaign, marketing strategic group down on campus whose sole purpose is to really get out there and make sure the message is coming across, and not even just as a central university, but partnering up with our colleges and having that message consistent with the individual colleges and units there on campus. And then, you know, a lot of that rolls up to what we're trying to do here in Chicago. So, you know, that type of support is what we look for, you know, and we we also return that favor to them, you know, how put them and partnering up with them in order to for us to, you know, have an effective strategy, especially here in Chicago because, you know, as you talked about, it is a marketing it is a massive marketing campaign. You know, we rebranded just recently here at the university and and moved everything from a branding standpoint, to our orange block eye, which is what everybody typically associates that that logo, to university. Right. Yeah, sure. Our marketing campaign, or our I should say our campaign itself, our fundraising campaign, is the first big initiative at the university that is solely using the orange block eye in the logo and all the campaign and marketing materials. So there's a lot of just like anything else, a lot of moving parts, but that's the kind of support we look for. So that way the wreck the brand continues to stay strong but at the same time gives us an opportunity to to send the message out about our campaign to everybody around here, because again, it's going to hit a lot of people, you know, and hopefully make that impact that we look for. I know that your advancement ambassadors, those who are givers themselves, are are such a vital part of your campaign strategy. Yeah, how do you intentionally empower your ambassadors with the the messaging they need, the brand value props, the the academic points of view, the vision that you're that you're aiming for in order to be effective ambassadors? Yeah, you know, over the last Gosh, Eric, I want to say. Over the last eleven years we've had this group called the aligne leadership hustle. It is a group of, as you just mentioned, alumni ambassadors, who's alumni advancement ambassadors, I should say, whose sole purposes really help us further our advancement mission, especially here in the Chicago area. These are very passionate individuals, folks who have our major gift donors themselves, right. They understand the importance of advancement. They get it. So their charge just to get out there and help us spread the advancement message around in...

...their in their network. So, which is really one of the big, big advantages of this group, because this group is very well connected here in the Chicago land area. So they can introduce us to folks within their network. They've got a lot of alums who have come back to them and said, Hey, we've always wanted to help the university, just didn't know how to do it. There are starting point, right, and then they can make those a necessary introductions, either to me or to folks on my staff or folks here at the university. You know, that's their charge and it's so important to have them, especially when you're in a campaign mode. Because, as I mentioned earlier, we've been in the silent phase of our campaign for the last few years. This group we've been constantly reporting to them with the status or the campaign things that are going on where we're at. So they've actually been in the know about some of the stuff we've been working on within the silent phase, Andy and that was important because they can understand how we evolved into now the public phase of this campaign. And so you know, it is very important empowering them with the information they need to go out there. So we meet three times a year, Eric and and those meetings are pretty robust meetings. We have them meeting with university officials, and we're talking senior leadership roles, so everything from Dean's to the provost to the chancellor, senior directors that have that play a big part in many of the things that are going on here at the university. So they can get updated on things everything from admissions to student affairs to college updates to our alumni association, our new alumni alliance. There is just they get so much good information that they can take back in here and then sometimes they it moves them where they feel like they can help them out and introduce those particular folks to to contact within the Chicago area that could help them out, and so it's such a win win opportunity for them to come out there as alumni advancement ambassadors for us to get that key message going and know that we've got that trusted group going out there and and spreading the Illinois love to to the folks that they want to share it with and then be able to answer questions. And so, you know, for us, and for me personally, because I work very closely with this board, it is important for them to be able to understand and know the key messages that are being shared out there and for them to be in the know not only makes them feel proud even more, even more proud of what's going on here at the university and being a proud alum, but they also feel very empowered at that point to be able to share that information and and feel very confident knowing that they know who they can talk to and work with to help us get the job done out here. It is such a good idea. John. Are there any particularly creative or unique or new ways you're looking to try to solicit big gifts from donors, you know, offering naming rights or any other novel approaches. Yeah, you know, one of the things that we're really starting to embark on here at the university...

...as a lot of renovation projects. We've got, as you can imagine, a universe who's been around since one thousand eight hundred and sixty seven. We got some old buildings, some old buildings where some of our older alums, if they come back to visit campus, go into the building and it looks the same way that it's looked when they were when they were there at school. You know, Eric there's a lot of great opportunities that and and creative ones that we're trying to do more of now where we're a lot of it is building renovations, you know, opportunities to name a space who and that space would be in perpetuity, you know, for the life of the building really. You know, they get they get the opportunity to do that. Some some get the opportunity to be a part of some new construction that's going up, like our marching a line. I just have a new instructional tower that went up on their practice field. Donors have the opportunity to get their name placed on that tower. That's a new initiative as something that hadn't been done before. It's so it's things like that where we offer creative, new ways to do that. We, you know, part of our campaign, you know, is is scholarship, you know, and in getting some new scholarships. So our college of Engineering, for example, has an engineering visionary scholarship program where their charges to raise a hundred million dollars for scholarships for College of Engineering Students there at Illinois. You know, it's things like that, creative ways to to showcase that there's a way to make an impact here and for for you to be able to do so in a large manner, you know, in a six or seven figure manner. You know, everything from those those named spaces to name the scholarships, professorships, chairs, fellowships, you name it. And I think now the fun part is that a lot of our colleges are finding creative ways for us to be able to do that and give those opportunities to our donors. So not only does it benefit the college and unit receiving that generosity right, it also helps our campaign, it also helps the university in general, and such a win win for everybody. So those are all types of creative ways and, like I told you, I mean again to three years from now I could look even different. You know, we may have more projects in the horizon and as a lot of that stuff with the long term plan. But, you know, creative, wise and and fun ways to do again, we've definitely been able to open up some new opportunities for our donors to be involved and be and to make that impact will give to to the university. It's awesome, John. For institutions who are a few years behind you chron A, logically, in terms of where they are at it their capital campaign, any next step recommendations for them who are about to embark on this, you know, tendigit capital campaign, how they should approach the task strategically? Yeah, well, one a lot of patients. You know, you again, like we talked about it. You know, a campaign of that size there's a lot of moving parts, right. You know, understanding what the campaign priorities are, not just for your institution but for all the colleges and units that are going to be a part of that comprehensive campaign. I think it's always keeping that out, that communication open. You know, everybody's going to have their thoughts and ideas...

...of what they want to have in their campaigns, you know, and there's always going to be that dream of, you know, the ideal situation for them if they were to embark into a campaign and and what it would cover, and understanding that there is going to be a lot of moving parts to it. But to have that patients and to really strategically think about it. How do you not just not just determining what your fundraising goal is, because that's always important, but how are you going to achieve that? What's the marketing plan? You know, what are you how are you going to get the message out there? Who are you going to work with? How Does Your Donor Pyramid look? Are you going to be is this a realistic goal? Is this a stretch goal? Typically campaigns or stretch goals, and so you know, who do you know that you can reach out to you to help, you know, make that stretch gift, or gifts, I should say, you know, to help achieve that goal. And so I think there's a lot of a lot of strategy involved in that and keeping that open communication going and continue to have that ongoing communication once you launch your campaign, not just after the silent phase type thing, and it going in there and continuing to have those conversations once you go into the public launch, because that's when it really starts to make a difference because you're going out there now and it's become live, it's out there for people to see. And so I think that having that thought process and then just have fun with it, you know, is it? No, you know, it's no different from our our typical advancement daily routine, right, going out there and cultivating and building those relationships. And you know, with campaigns you're going to be starting to build a lot of newer relationships, which I find to be the fun part of the job. You know, it's have fun with it because if, again, if you're having fun with it, you do the job right, you'll meet your campaign goal, you'll meet the campaign and hopefully blow away your campaign goal. And so I think this those points just, you know, from a strategic standpoint, just keep that communication line open and just keep talking, because there's going to be ways to continue tweaking to help make that campaign a success. John, thanks so much for sharing such great thoughts today. What is the best place for listeners to connect with you? With they have any followup questions? Yeah, you know, the best place to connect with me would be through Linkedin. Connect with me on Linkedin. That's John Jo en Salvani SA l va N I. You know, feel free to connect with me on Linkedin, send me a message and would love to share contact information and and same for me. I'd love to share some Info and and hear, if what other institutions are doing, because we're all we're all in this together. It's a great learning experience for everybody. So I'm always open to hearing some some new thoughts and ideas that, you know, would be helping myself as well. So I think this some great opportunity there. So yeah, could linkedin would probably be the best way to connect with me. Awesome. Thanks against so much for joining us today, John, and best of luck with the rest of the campaign. Thanks, Eric, appreciate it. Thanks for your time. To attracting today's new post traditional learners means adopting new enrollment strategies. Helix educations data driven, enterprise wide approach to enrollment growth...

...is uniquely helping colleges and universities thrive in this new education landscape, and Helix has just published the second edition of their enrollment growth playbook with fifty percent brand new content on how institutions can solve today's most pressing enrollment growth challenges. Downloaded today for free at Helix Educationcom. Playbook. You've been listening to enrollment growth university from Helix Education. To ensure that you never miss an episode, subscribe to the shown itunes or your favorite podcast player. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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