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ISU planning $100 million-plus campaign


Iowa State University is in the planning stages of an effort to raise hundreds of millions of dollars to boost its endowment and recently hired an experienced fund-raiser to oversee the campaign.

Daniel Saftig, who most recently was vice president of marketing and communications at the Minnesota Medical Foundation and worked on a fund-raising campaign that netted the school $516 million over seven years, took over as president and chief executive of the Iowa State University Foundation one month ago.

His mission comes as Iowa, like many other states, continues to cut the amount of funding it gives to its biggest colleges and universities.

As a result, colleges and universities are relying on tuition hikes and strong fund-raising programs to pay for maintenance costs, expand their facilities and boost salaries for star faculty to attract more students. The Iowa State University Foundation transferred $38.9 million to the university last year, 27 percent more than the year before.

“We’re in the exploration phase, the beginning of the capital campaign,” Saftig said. “We’re identifying what transformational kinds of things that philanthropy can help advance.”

The campaign is likely to last for seven years, beginning next year, Saftig said. The university has not yet set a financial goal, though it is likely to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, he said. The new fund-raising plan parallels efforts by top administrators to update the school’s strategic plan.

“Campaign Destiny,” ISU’s last significant capital campaign, ended three years ago after raising $458.6 million, Saftig said.

The university is currently working on a smaller, $50 million fund-raising campaign, “Investing in People,” which it expects to conclude by the end of the year. The ISU Foundation has 85 employees. Its endowment totaled $237 million as of June 30, 2002, the latest figures available.

Money raised through the new campaign could be used to construct new buildings or bring older ones up-to-date, Saftig said. It could also boost the number and size of scholarships, increase the number of graduate assistants and create endowed faculty positions, which would help attract top professors. More than 3,500 students receive scholarship support from the foundation each year.

His challenges will be navigating a Central Iowa field that is already crowded with need, from state and local governments to charities and other philanthropic organizations. Another significant challenge could be the economy, though the fundraising effort will last so long that it’s unlikely that the current economic downturn will persist throughout the entire campaign.

In Saftig, Iowa State has found an official who has big-city experience and understands rural universities.    Saftig grew up in Wisconsin and completed a double major in political science and mass communication at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. He was the first member of his family to earn a college degree.

Saftig later received a master’s degree in non-profit administration from the University of San Francisco. He has done consulting work for fund-raising efforts at large universities in Maryland, Georgia and Washington.

He also worked at fund raising at Penn State University, where he met Iowa State’s current president Gregory Geoffroy, who was dean at that school’s College of Science. Saftig said Geoffroy contacted him, encouraging him to consider coming to Ames.

At the University of Minnesota, of which the Minnesota Medical Foundation is a part, Saftig said the money “transformed the university.”

Specifically, the school used the funds to create 38 new endowed faculty positions, as well as pay for improvements to its buildings and facilities and provide greater funding for student scholarship and other programs. At Iowa State, Saftig succeeds Tom Mitchell, who left the foundation to become vice chancellor of university advancement at the University of California at Irvine.

Over the next year, as Iowa State officials, faculty members and volunteers work to project the school’s needs for the next decade, Saftig will be making sure that the foundation has systems in place to efficiently handle large donations and other infusions of money.

That includes major items like managing the money properly and smaller tasks such as making sure a donor is thanked properly and that his or her name is spelled correctly.   “Successful fund raising doesn’t happen without the right infrastructure in place,” he said.

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