Ames, Iowa

Campaign Destiny: To Become the Best

Before the ground is turned up, before the seed is even sown, the soil plays a fundamental role in the harvest. The quality and consistency, to a large degree, determines the potential for growth. Iowa States campaign which returned in excess of $458 million in five-years, was by anyone’s standards, a bumper crop. But below the surface of this well-run campaign, marked by good promotion and obvious hard work, was a belief grounded in the soil of the University. Not a hope planned by committee, but a true sense of destiny.

From ISU’s own self-description, Iowa State has aspired to become the best land-grant university in the nation. This goal is very ambitious but worthy of the land-grant institution serving the state that prides itself on being Number 1 in education. Campaign Destiny: To Become the Best was the largest fund-raising initiative in Iowa State University’s history.

The efforts of many individuals made Campaign Destiny an absolutely extraordinary success, and the biggest beneficiaries of this success are Iowa States students, remarked ISU President Martin Jischke. The millions raised for scholarships increase the opportunities for students to pursue college degrees, while money for new buildings, programs and professorships greatly enhances the quality of undergraduate and graduate education at Iowa State. Not only has the campaign opened doors, ISU has managed to open some eyes in the process.

An anonymous gift of $80 million received in 1999 was not only the largest gift to any Iowa public institution, but also the largest to any college of agriculture in the United States. Four of the top 10 largest gifts given to any institution of higher education in the state of Iowa, were given as part of Campaign Destiny. In fact, of the top 10 gifts ever received by ISU, eight came in during… the Best campaign at Iowa State.

Announced publicly in September 1996, the campaign was only halfway through its five-year counting period when contributions exceeded $224 million — three-fourths of the $300-million goal. By March 1998, the campaign hit $244 million. Later in the year, the goal was adjusted to $425 and still surpassed.

This was Vice President of External Affairs, Murray Blackwelders second ISU campaign, I arrived at Iowa State in 1991 during the Partnership for Prominence campaign. The campaign goal was to raise $100 million. It had paused around $90 million, but we got things moving and completed the campaign in 1993 with $214 million. Sometime after that campaign we uncovered a deferred gift of $34 million. The donors asked to remain anonymous and their gift represented an obvious and substantial lead gift for a new campaign.

The husband was a graduate of ISU, the couple lived close to Ames had been involved in the life of the University for decades. There was a natural cultivation process occurring over that time. The husband and wife were in their nineties and both passed away prior to the end of the campaign. By 2000, the deferred gift of $34 million had matured to around $80 million. For this couple and for Iowa State, it truly was the ultimate gift.

Campaign Destiny targeted five major ISU areas: endowments, programs, buildings, financial aid, and general projects. ISU Foundations assets burgeoned from $140 million in 1995 to $500 million in 2000. In five years the endowment grew from $84 million in 1995 to $350 million in 2000.

Such gifts allowed the University to develop new curricula for undergraduate and graduate programs through initiatives such as the Center for Entrepreneurship, the Plant Sciences Institute, and ISUs first named school, the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication. Additionally, outright and deferred gifts funded 22 new faculty professorships and chairs.

Over 50 building projects were advanced from the campaign to become the best. The campaign has financed building projects throughout the campus, from the development of Reiman Gardens to the enhancement and expansion of Jack Trice Stadium, said Thomas Mitchell, ISU Foundation President.

Gifts have helped construct the Engineering Teaching and Research complex for the college of Engineering, the Palmer Human Development and Family Studies Building for the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, Kocimski Auditorium for the College of Design, the Gerdin Business Building, Honors Building, 4-H Extension Youth Building, and the Carver Co-Laboratory for the Plant Sciences Institute.

Campaign Destiny opened up opportunities for students in Iowa and throughout the nation with financial aid to students through scholarships, fellowships, internships, and cooperative experiences. The Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication more than tripled the money awarded prior to the campaign. Annual scholarships multiplied from $30,000 to $100,000. Donor gifts created 614 new undergraduate and graduate scholarships, including the Hixson Opportunity Awards and Presidential Scholarships for National Merit and Achievement students.

We had a good team, offered Blackwelder. The head of the foundation, the president, and I were all major gift fund raisers. But what really made a difference was when the faculty and staff became active in the campaign. The nine deans of the various colleges were very involved in the process. We started with a strong lead gift, which provided some campaign confidence, and the rest came together very well.

We knew after the Partnership for Prominence campaign that we had a greater base for donor support. In 1986 we had just over 20,000 donors and $10 million in outright gifts and pledges. By 1991 we had almost 40,000 donors and over $30 million in outright gifts and pledges. With the anonymous gift in 1993, it was clear ISU had the potential for another campaign.

The five years of campaigning had a peripheral affect on ISU’s capacity to receive gifts. Each year of the campaign saw new records set for the number of donors. By the fiscal year of 2000, donor involvement was at 54,083 and counting.

Campaign Destiny was such an overwhelming success because the right ingredients came together at the right moment: a vision and a strategic plan to achieve it, involving campus partners, a strong national economy, and committed alumni and friends, added Mitchell. Fund-raising totals such as these have moved Iowa State into the top quartile in the Big 12 development rankings, up from eighth only two years ago. More importantly, Campaign Destiny’s success means more resources are helping Iowa State advance its aspiration to become the best land-grant institution in the nation.

Land-grant colleges were proposed in the mid-1800s to respond to the nations rapid industrialization and commercialization. The emergence of education for the middle class changed the face of the work force. With technology forging another new day in the way the country works, ISU is not shy about what part the University will play. Fo6r the century ahead, declares an Iowa State brochure, ISU unequivocably confirms that place, initiating new processes and attitudes of flexibility, adaptability, and innovation. As a knowledge-based economy restructures the workplace, the University is gathering the momentum necessary to realize its destiny while holding true to its original land-grant heritage.

As an organization destined and committed to becoming the best, Iowa State University’s soil was prepared and ready for unprecedented growth. Campaign Destiny was good agronomy in action.