With more than $80 million fundraised, UNCW to open campaign to public

UNCW has embarked on a the “silent phase” of its fundraising campaign and will now open to the public, hoping to take in an additional 50,000 gifts. (Port City Daily/Preston Lennon)

WILMINGTON — UNCW will launch the next phase of its comprehensive fundraising campaign in early February. Work has been ongoing for a while to raise millions of dollars at the university. During the campaign’s “silent phase,” which started around the time Chancellor Jose Sartarelli took office in July 2015 and continued until this year, the university raised over $86 million. 

With a $100 million goal in mind, UNCW will soon begin outreach to a wide pool of alumni and other affiliates of the university, hoping to secure an additional 50,000 gifts from alumni. The campaign was initially slated for an autumn 2020 launch, but was pushed back amid the continuing pandemic, according to Eddie Stuart, vice chancellor for university advancement.

“I’ve been in the fundraising profession for a long time,” Stuart said in an interview earlier this month. “And the most notable moments in time, as far as my recollection and experience is concerned, is right after 9/11, in the middle of the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, immediately after hurricane Florence and of course this year.” 

Stuart said his career has taught him donors want to help and be engaged. 

“And it’s not the right move for an organization to just kind of curl up and not ask for money, and not continue to make the case for support,” he said. 

Money given by donors to UNCW is often earmarked for specific purposes. Of the money gifted so far, nearly one-fifth is dedicated to athletics, while another fifth will directly benefit the College of Arts and Sciences. Noting that some crossover is present, a university presentation indicates $51.4 million, the majority of the funds so far collected, will go toward student-focused initiatives; $28.9 million is earmarked for faculty; $35.7 million for “programs”; and $16.6 million for facilities. Only 2% of the campaign’s intake is unrestricted.

“For the next year, we have an intricate plan to kind of do things at certain times,” Stuart said. 

The Campaign Executive Cabinet includes notable community figures like Hannah Gage, vice-chair of the $1.25 billion endowment that stems from the sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center to Novant Health. Raiford Trask III is also on the committee, in addition to some members of the university’s board of trustees. 

From July 2015 until the end of 2020, more than 11,000 UNCW alumni made gifts to the university, accounting for $22 million, as did nearly 11,000 “friends” of the university, who collectively contributed $38 million. 

Stuart said UNCW’s strategy has always been oriented around a one-on-one visit mentality, a focus that had to be retooled to adjust to the pandemic’s impacts.

“Without the technology that we have in place, whether it’s Zoom, whether it’s social media or the ability to communicate electronically in other ways, it would be next to impossible to keep donors engaged,” he said. “We’ve really had to rethink every single thing and how we do it.” 

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