The University Record, September 25, 2000

Volunteers’ enthusiasm fuels campaign

By Jane R. Elgass

Four volunteers involved in U-M fundraising activities, both as donors and as volunteers, made impassioned presentations to the Regents last week. They demonstrated a level of commitment that they are finding is mirrored in others as they begin to touch base with potential donors and volunteers.

Presentations were made by George Perrin, Richard Rogel, Mike Jandernoa and Helen Zell. Perrin is an alumnus from Texas who has endowed professorships in LS&A and will chair the LS&A component of the campaign. Rogel, president of the Alumni Association and donor, with his wife Susan, of a $22 million leadership gift this past summer, will be a national co-chair of the campaign. Jandernoa, who is a Business School graduate and also on the statewide Life Sciences Corridor Commission, will chair the Grand Rapids major gifts committee. Zell, an alumna from Chicago who endowed a professorship in LS&A, is working with the University on issues around women in philanthropy.

Perrin noted that his “interests in the University are deep” and that he sees an “absolutely clear need” for major fundraising efforts. The challenge lies in “identifying our profound needs.”

Perrin (left) and Rogel
For a volunteer, a seven-year commitment (the usual length of major campaigns) “is a long time. But we need to start with a program and move forward. That’s what we’ve been about” in the past year, Perrin said.

Two major elements are needed before a goal can be set, he said.

  • Prioritizing ideas of what units need money for, requiring careful focusing. “We want to look at this programmatically,” he said, adding that attention must be paid particularly to new donors who will want continuing involvement in the areas they target for their gifts.

    This approach is drawn from the corporate community in which a product is created, put into its best form, and then put in front of people who are interested.

  • In “getting the people,” Perrin said, “we’ve only touched the surface,” and attention to potential volunteers and donors will reach across the country.

    “We are dreaming now, and we will gather people as we go along. We need to invest in the process, and we will show results.”

    In terms of timing, it couldn’t be better, he said, pointing to trends detailed earlier by Susan K. Feagin, vice president for development.

    “Now is the time. Everything points to us being able to say ‘Michigan is here, we’re ready to go forward.’”

    Rogel, who eloquently professed “a deep, personal, abiding love for the University,” this past summer made a gift to the University with his wife Susan that is considered one of the leadership gifts for the campaign—$22 million in support of financial aid for undergraduate, non-resident students, the largest gift ever made to the University for financial aid.

    “The University is the most important thing that has ever happened to me, and I speak to you as a volunteer, president of the Alumni Association, an alumnus and a donor.”

    Noting the high importance private giving has for the University, Rogel cited an instance resulting from the most recent campaign that enabled the University to keep key faculty at the Business School who were being wooed by high offers from other institutions, one of them four times the faculty member’s U-M salary.

    He also underscored points made by Perrin about the desire on the part of today’s donors to want to be involved in what results from their gifts. In one case, a medical student wanted to take a year off to be a science teacher because of a need in his hometown high school. Financial aid support of the student enabled him to make contributions to many other people.

    “Many scholarship students have done the same,” Rogel noted. “Being a donor keeps you involved in the University.”

    He also touched on the overall urgent need for increased support for out-of-state students, citing the U-M’s loss of a potentially stellar student from China who would have been able to receive only $5,000. She went to Yale University, which supported her fully, including travel expenses.

    “We are excluding significant numbers in the population” by not being able to support these students. “We are missing some very bright people. We need to get interested students to this University.”

    Rogel characterized himself and Perrin as “activist donors,” those who investigate an organization and are comfortable with the goals and management of the organization. “I knew my leadership would be for scholarships. The University has phenomenal leadership and is the most special university in the country. Our youth are our future. What we do to support them will benefit the country.

    “Kids and scholars,” he added, “are more important than any building. This is a superb university.”

    The presence of a large number of women Regents and executive officers at the Board’s table is gratifying to Zell. “There are many women at this table and I feel good about that,” she said. She also noted that she has developed a warm, reciprocal relationship with LS&A Dean Shirley Neuman, a relationship that she said fuels her energy and enthusiasm as she works to get more women involved in philanthropy.

    When Zell was a student here in the early 1960s, she didn’t think much about money for the University, but rather focused on learning how to cope with the world and getting a job.

    “We need to think about women as potential donors today,” she stated. “There are many who can write bigger checks than in the past.”

    She gathered 12 women in Chicago this past summer to explore ways to increase women’s involvement in fundraising as both volunteers and donors after discovering that women give for different reasons than men. “We need to find out how to tap into this group, connect them to the University. They want to be supportive,” she said, adding that women also appear to want to be more involved in activities resulting from their gifts.

    Her energy and enthusiasm are being fueled by campus visits that have brought back memories about what it meant to be a student here—she still has graded papers from one of her favorite faculty members—and by things she’s discovered, such as the Hopwood Room, that she didn’t know existed when she was a student.

    “I want to get the Regents involved too,” she added. “That will expand this whole project. We need to be creative and find ways to make the University even better.”

    The University and the state are “embarking on a new and exciting course,” commented Jandernoa, as they and three other research entities (Michigan State and Wayne State universities and the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids) push forward to make the state a worldwide center of life sciences activities.

    The life sciences, he noted, are where computers and telecommunications were 10 years ago. The new millennium has presented “an opportunity to step back and reflect, to dream and perfect a vision of the future,” fueled by the convergence of three events: the establishment and opening of the Van Andel Institute, formation of the Life Sciences Corridor by Gov. John Engler, and the U-M’s Life Sciences Initiative launched by President Lee C. Bollinger.

    Jandernoa noted that the impact of the Van Andel’s significant gifts in this area will “last for generations” in a “unique facility that will have worldwide impact,” and he wants to see the same thing happen for the U-M.

    Engler’s formation of the Corridor, funded by money from the state’s settlement with the tobacco companies, has made it possible to “jump-start” these efforts, but much work remains to be done. “We need to make the state a center for human health and the best medical care in the world,” Jandernoa said.

    The Life Science Corridor Commission is responsible for allocating funds from the $50 million annual revenues from the settlement: 40 percent for basic research; 50 percent for applied, peer-reviewed research; and 10 percent for commercial development. The 14-member group, which received $600 million in proposals, gives the final approval on funding of projects in these areas.

    “This will help change the state of Michigan from being known for automobiles and furniture. We need a different state for the future,” he said.

    While there are “enormous opportunities in these initiatives to improve health and knowledge, that knowledge also can be misused. We must be prepared to meet the needs and the challenges,” he said, adding that he feels that U-M is “uniquely positioned” to do so based on its strengths in basic science and its mission.

    “We need to make this investment in our future. It is important for the University and for the state, and the timing is critical. I see many opportunities for investing in Michigan.”