Ransdell lays out goals for capital campaign

Although fundraising never truly stops at WKU, President Gary Ransdell has already planned capital campaigns through the end of his term.

A capital campaign is a “high pressure” time of concentrated fundraising when the university attempts to match donors with major gifts, Ransdell said.

“You just couldn’t have that same mentality year in and year out because people would get tired,” he said.

Ransdell’s first capital campaign, which raised about $102 million, finished in 2003. WKU’s current “A New Century of Spirit” campaign has a goal of $200 million and is expected to be completed by June 2012.

Ransdell said that between 2012 and 2015, WKU may put together a scholarship campaign before starting his final capital campaign that will run through 2020 with a $300 million goal.

“That’s just the way universities work these days,” Ransdell said. “We’ll have a new set of campaign leadership, new volunteers, and just continue to breathe new energy and focus into the private gift program.”

Ransdell, who said he was at the “halftime” of his presidential term in February 2010, has an agreement with WKU’s Board of Regents to serve through 2022.

Ransdell’s previous work as vice president of Administration and Advancement at Clemson University and as director of Alumni Relations at Southern Methodist University has given him a background in fundraising.

The key to capital campaigning, Ransdell said, is matching proposals for large donations ($1 million or more) with donors who have a background in where the money will go.

“Seldom do you take a proposal to somebody that they haven’t already given you some signal that they’re interested in doing,” he said. “If you know they’ve got great capacity, then our job is to get their inclination up to a level of their capacity.

“In so doing, you learn what turns them on and what excites them, and that’s when you prepare a proposal.”

It was at SMU that Ransdell first worked with Kathryn Costello, WKU’s new vice president for Development and Alumni Relations.

Costello said WKU officials need to raise about $25 million more in the university’s current capital campaign to reach its $200 million goal.

According to Board of Regents agenda materials, $100 million of the current campaign goes toward academic programs. The $25 million for buildings has already been reached, with the last $25 million being raised toward a $75 million total for “People.”

“Honestly, the last $25 million will always be the hardest because you’ve anticipated a lot of gifts that will hopefully be able to be realized during this next period of time,” Costello said.

Ransdell will meet with university officials to develop a strategic plan for the next several years, which will help WKU put together its next fundraising campaign — just like he did before the “New Century of Spirit” campaign started, Costello said.

“What got us here was based on a strategic plan the university developed,” she said. “We needed a lot of improvements to the campus and buildings and so forth, we needed some endowments for scholarships and faculty positions … and those things all became part of what drove the fundraising efforts.”

That same process will start back up as the current campaign comes to an end, Costello said.

“After the campaign, there’s this tendency to get kind of ‘Ah, we’re so glad this is over,’” she said. “But we really can’t afford to do that, because we have a lot of people that have been engaged and interested.”