Public university spends $750,000 on kickoff for fundraising drive

Robby Soave Reporter
Font Size:

Administrators at the University of Michigan, taking to heart the old saying “one must spend money to make money,” chose to throw a lavish, $750,000 kickoff party for the school’s latest fundraising campaign.

U-M’s ‘Victors for Michigan’ capital campaign aims to raise $4 billion to fund various university projects, including infrastructure development, research grants and scholarships. If successful, Victors for Michigan will be the highest-grossing fundraising drive by a public university in history.

But first, U-M had to spend between $750,000 and $800,000 on a series of parties for the campaign’s rollout.

A university spokesperson justified the expense as necessary to get the word out to potential donors.

“To achieve our audacious goal of raising $4 billion, we need gifts from hundreds of thousands of donors,” said Judith Malcolm, a U-M spokesperson, in a statement to The Michigan Daily. “That means we need hundreds of thousands of people aware of and engaged in the campaign.”

Malcolm explained that the capital campaign is not a “telethon.” Rather, the idea is to rake in donations over the long haul.

“A campaign kickoff is not designed or intended to raise money at that precise moment in time,” she said. “The kickoff event did, however, provide a focus and urgency for fundraising.”

The urgency was of course keenly felt at a media event, community festival, dinner for donors and subsequent party.

The kickoff was also intended to thank the high profile donors who already contributed millions to the campaign. Real estate mogul Stephen Ross recently gave $100 million to improve U-M’s athletic facilities and another $100 million to spruce up the business school that bears his name — even though the Ross School of Business is already one of the fanciest university buildings in the country. (RELATED: UMich gets $200 million donation to buy nicer stuff, debt-weary students shrug)

Thanks to donations like Ross’s, U-M has already generated $1.7 billion of the $4 billion it hopes to raise.

Whether or not the university succeeds in its goal of completing the most lucrative fundraising drive in the history of public education, tuition will likely continue to increase for debt-ridden students — just as it has every year for the last 30. (RELATED: Student loans skyrocketed 463 percent under Obama)

U-M did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Follow Robby on Twitter