Fundraising in a Down Economy

The University of Southern California, perhaps best known for its rich football tradition, is set to embark on a fundraising campaign that makes winning another Heisman Trophy look routine by comparison.

Despite a tough economy, USC will officially announce later this month, a $6 billion fundraising effort, the largest ever for an American university.   

Could the ivory tower of academia be immune from economic reality? Not when it comes to fundraising. According to the New York based Council for Aid to Education, donations to colleges dropped by 12% in 2009 and rose a meager .5% in 2010.

In the midst of such difficult circumstances, this capital campaign is not some sort of Hail Mary. “They don’t want to set themselves up to fail. The institutions would have to have some confidence in their ability to raise that kind of money,” said Rae Goldsmith, Vice President of the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, which tracks donations.

Here’s the strategy that USC is set to employ with this campaign

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, USC President C.L. Max Nikias said, “I feel it is extremely important that we position the university to ride the first wave of economic recovery.” This vision is designed to propel the Trojans into the upper tiers of academic research institutions with an endowment that rivals Stanford, Notre Dame and Northwestern.

Having the vision is one thing, but having the plan to pull it off is another. That’s where Al Checcio comes in. Checcio is Senior Vice President for University Advancement at USC. He says the key is to figure out what interests wealthy alumni, and then connect them with programs they’re excited about.

In a recent interview with American Public Media’s Marketplace program, Checcio said, “That is really the science and skill of fundraising. Through the course of that relationship, you determine what they’re interested in and then in many ways, it’s almost like being a matchmaker.”

Setting up your organization up for long term success is important, especially in tough economic times. The better you understand your audience, the deeper the connection you’ll make and the more successful you’ll be in playing matchmaker with your station.

dmr’s 360° Listener Engagement Strategy identifies and connects with the listeners who matter most, by learning about their interests and leveraging those insights to drive ratings and revenue.

To learn more about this strategy and how it would work for you. contact Andrew Curran for more information.


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