$150 million fundraising push to move past quiet phase

By Matthew Stone

The impact of a donation to Macalester stretches well beyond the college’s gates. Through supporting Macalester, benefactors are supporting the positive impact students will have on the world once their four years in the halls of undergraduate academia have passed.That’s the message the college is banking on as it prepares to go public with a push to add $150 million to its coffers over the next four years. An early draft of the promotional material the college will eventually distribute to potential donors dubs the capital campaign, “Through Macalester: Campaign for Macalester.and for a Better World.”

Already, in the campaign’s “quiet phase” during which Advancement staff-those who work in the college office dedicated to fundraising-have appealed to a small, core group of well-heeled donors for large contributions, the college has netted $68.9 million in donations and pledges toward the $150 million goal.

Contributions will underwrite financial aid scholarships, create endowed professorships, and, among other projects, help fund the construction of three facilities: the athletic and recreation center already under construction, a building for the college’s new Institute for Global Citizenship, and a remodeled Janet Wallace Fine Arts Center.

Trustees-both past and present-have pitched in $39 million of the $68.9 million raised to date.

“You would expect that because we’re in the quiet phase,” Vice President for Advancement Tommy Bonner said in an interview last week. “They help set the mark. We do expect trustees to lead.”

The capital campaign, the most ambitious in Macalester’s history, will enter its next step, the public phase, in October of next year, he said. The college will have raised over half of the desired $150 million by that point, according to Bonner. Original capital campaign plans called for the public phase to begin in May 2008.

As the campaign enters its next step, the college will appeal to a larger group of potential donors. As the potential donor pool grows, the target amount of individual contributions shrinks.

“The lower you get in the spectrum, typically it’s about giving back” rather than bankrolling a major initiative, Bonner said.

The campaign’s public phase will be marked by the launch of a special web site and the proliferation of promotional materials aimed at convincing potential donors that giving back is a worthy cause.

A draft of promotional literature provided to The Mac Weekly outlines the primary goals of the fundraising push, explaining how, in the long-run, a contribution to Macalester amounts to a contribution in support of a better world.

“President [Brian] Rosenberg has emphasized that these investments are not only for the sake of Macalester and its students. Rather, they are investments in a world made better and more livable by the work of alumni who will prepare for this work through Macalester,” reads one page of the pamphlet.

The 16-page leaflet boasts colorful pictures of the campus and of students engaging in community service work. Most pages feature tales of alumni, both young and old, who have used their Macalester educations to make a difference through their work.

One featured alumna has become “one of the nation’s foremost authorities on disaster response” and is on the brink of developing a “network of ocean-floor and mobile sensors that would help detect tsunamis.” Another graduate has used his Macalester chemistry training to research a molecule that can “slow down cancerous tumor growth.”

The capital campaign’s promotional literature also makes note of Macalester’s burgeoning reputation as a preeminent liberal arts college. The brochure highlights the college’s “New Ivy” distinction from Newsweek and its ranking among the top 25 liberal arts colleges in the 2006 edition of U.S. News &World Report.

Bonner said later drafts of the campaign’s promotional literature would not tout Macalester’s U.S. News rating. President Rosenberg told The Mac Weekly last week that the college’s promotional materials would no longer feature the college’s U.S. News ranking. The statement by Rosenberg came amid a growing wave of opposition by liberal arts colleges to the magazine’s methodology in determining the rankings.

Even without the U.S. News ranking, the capital campaign brochure still makes clear that the expectations for Macalester graduates to make a difference in the world are high.

Donors “recognize and appreciate the impact Macalester graduates are having,” Bonner said. “Their belief is we need more leaders. The buildings only facilitate the educational process.