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Thus far, fundraising not affected by uncertain economy

There may be a slowing of the economy in some parts of the country, but thus far fund raising at schools in Mississippi continues to be brisk.

“Despite increasingly problematic economic news, MC’s Growing the Vision Campaign continues to do well, recording almost $2 million in gifts and pledges in December,” said Mississippi College (MC) president Lee Royce. “We are well on our way to exceed our $65-million goal. We hope to finish the Business School renovations and look forward to raising much needed dollars for a new theater and expanded space for our international student programs.”

The campaign at the private school topped $52 million early this year. Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, the Republican nominee for president in 1996, is keynoting MC’s scholarship banquet on March 31 on the Clinton campus. School leaders hope the famous visitor will attract $100,000 for student scholarships, a key component of the campaign. Other plans for the funds include renovations for the Business School’s Self Hall, a new theater and an international center.

At Millsaps College in Jackson, also a privately-owned school, Charles Lewis, vice president for institutional advancement, says the Legacy Campaign is having great success. Most of the funds will be used for people and programs to include scholarships, faculty development and program enhancement.

“It went public in mid-2006 and is a very aggressive $160-million campaign,” he said. “We’re closing in on the $100-million mark with estate gifts and out right gifts. The campaign will finish by the first of 2010.”

It’s too soon to say if the economy will affect the campaign, but Lewis is optimistic that it won’t.

“The first place we would see any effect would probably be in the annual fund and in those gifts people make out of their discretionary funds,” Lewis said. “Those are gifts that come in $100 and $500 donations, and we are seeing a little bit of an effect in that, but people are putting us in their estate planning. That’s usually the largest gifts people will ever make.”

Unrelated to the national economy, Lewis says Hurricane Katrina had an incredible impact on physical and emotional issues in the state that affected fund raising for a year following the catastrophic storm.

“For about a year, we didn’t solicit with anyone from Hattiesburg down,” he said. “Now, I think overall the psychological effect with the economy may be like that after the hurricane. It’s fear of the unknown, and we don’t know the outcome.”

The University of Mississippi (UM) in Oxford went public last fall with its $200-million Momentum Campaign, which will end December 31 of this year. Funds are earmarked for general academic support, building a new law school building and an addition to the Inn at Ole Miss, an on-campus hotel operated by the alumni organization, faculty chairs and a research clinic at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson.

“The campaign will provide a broad umbrella of support,” said Ted Smith, associate director of development. “It’s very important and has become more so as a larger percentage of the university’s funding has become more dependent on tuition and private support.”

At this point, the Momentum Campaign is going well, according to Wendell Weakley, president of the UM Foundation. “We are comfortable we will reach our goal,” he said. “We just exceeded $180 million, and so far the economy hasn’t affected our donors.”

Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynn Lofton at llofton656@aol.com.

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