Cal Poly announced a $700 million fundraising campaign named the Power of Doing at this year’s Evening of Green & Gold, an annual event recognizing the university’s top supporters.
Although the campaign’s public phase was announced Friday, May 3, the university has been working toward this goal for the past seven years, University President Jeffrey Armstrong said.
The university has raised $556 million to date through more than 164,000 gifts from 50,000 different donors, according to Vice President of Development and Cal Poly Foundation CEO Matthew Ewing. The university hopes to reach or exceed $700 million by June 2021.
“The three pillars of the campaign are empowering students, empowering excellence and empowering innovation,” Armstrong said. “So regardless of where we end up with the number, the real key is enhancing student success.”
Armstrong said boosting fundraising was a goal from the beginning when he was hired at Cal Poly in 2011.
Cal Poly was the first California State University (CSU) to launch a fundraising campaign and concluded its first campaign in 2004. Although it is typical for private universities to campaign, until more recently, CSUs relied almost entirely on state funding, Armstrong said.
“The state provided excellent support years ago,” Armstrong said. “[For] many of our alumni, their cost of attendance at Cal Poly was very low. One graduate who finished in the late [1940s] — his net cost was just a few dollars to attend Cal Poly.”
The campaign follows a donor-centered model, meaning the decision is up to donors to select what their gift will fund, according to Ewing.
“[When] donors give to something, we want to accomplish their goal,” Ewing said. “If [a donation] comes in, we don’t move it to something that doesn’t align with what their intent was. Now that intent also has to align with the university’s mission.”
The Science and Agriculture Teaching and Research Center — which broke ground the same day as the campaign’s announcement — and renovations of Robert E. Kennedy Library are two of Cal Poly’s capital projects that are priorities for the campaign, Armstrong said.
In addition to buildings, Armstrong said donations from the campaign will help support Cal Poly Scholars. So far, the university has raised about $7 million for Cal Poly scholars, not including money from the Opportunity Fee.
Of the 300 expected incoming Cal Poly Scholars in Fall 2019, Armstrong said about 80 students will have half or all of their tuition paid for by donors. Northrop Grumman, a military defense contracting company, has been one of the biggest donors to the program, Armstrong said.
In the past, Cal Poly’s acceptance of donations and partnerships with companies such as Northrop Grumman, Boeing and Raytheon have resulted in student protests. Armstrong said that despite protests, the university continues to maintain a great relationship with the companies.
“They provide amazing jobs for our students and we’re not in the position to make decisions for students, and that’s what it really boils down to,” Armstrong said. “And as I mentioned earlier, they’re some of the best supporters.”
Armstrong said the university is confident in their goal and said he hopes they surpass $700 million.
“‘Learn by Doing’ was born here and it is always going to thrive here, but it won’t thrive without the donor support,” Armstrong said. “We can’t maintain our excellence, let alone grow it, without the support of these companies, these individuals.”