Nikias’ USC fundraising campaign hits $4.5 billion

As of Summer 2015, more than $4.5 billion of President C.L. Max Nikias’s $6 billion fundraising the Campaign for the University of Southern California has been raised. The campaign is projected by USC’s Advancement Services to reach the $6 billion mark by 2018’s fiscal year.

Advancement Services has made major advancements in academic endowment for students and faculty, building projects and capital. The Campaign is aimed at  giving the fundraised money back to the students by funding aspects that will increase their quality of education.

Currently, 52 percent of the money raised has gone toward academic priorities for an improved learning experience, 34 percent toward endowment to attract esteemed faculty and fund scholarships for students and 14 percent toward capital.

The campaign has already made a significant impact on campus, with projects such as the Wallis Annenberg Hall and the upcoming Village at USC.

Joy Ofodu, a sophomore majoring in communication, said she thinks the fundraising was used well.

“There’s nothing not to like about the new Annenberg building,” Ofodu said. “It’s amazing. It was incredible to be given this sort of gift. It’s really impressive, and I definitely think the fundraising was well put.”

According to the Council for Aid to Education, USC ranked third last year in fundraising successes, bested only by Harvard and Stanford.

USC has been able to perform well over the years because of the efficient infrastructure of Advancement Services. It ranges from local sources abroad to international resources.

The team has built up a fundraising staff of 450 members, double the amount of staff from when the Campaign started.

Tracey Vanich, vice president for Advancement Services, said the department will be even more determined during its final $2 billion push.

”That’s really the biggest thing: boots on the ground, going out, making visits and contacting people . . . But we’re going to be doing even more of that now for the next $2 billion of the campaign.”

The School of Cinematic Arts and the Athletics Department have already surpassed their campaign goals, and the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, and Sol Price School of Public Policy are at 70 percent completion or higher in their own campaign efforts.

Parents and alumni are a huge help to the campaign, donating a total of almost $3 billion to campaign efforts.

Around 280,000 donors have made campaign gifts to date, with about 89 percent of those donors offering gifts less than $1,000.

“I think part of this story is not always the transformational gifts, but what we always like to say is, ‘Look, there’s a lot of smaller gifts that make up the success of this campaign,’” Vranich said.  “I think that gets lost sometimes when you hear all of these big gift announcements, but that’s a really good impact story for the Campaign.”

Nerses Aposhian, a 2014 graduate, donated because he wanted to give back to the school he went to so it could continue to grow.

“I wanted to be a part of something bigger,” Aposhian said. “My contribution was less than .1 percent of the campaign, but I did feel like if there are individuals like myself that can’t give much but can give what they want or what they can, I think that can raise not only a lot of money, but it also shows that it’s not only the wealthy that fund this campaign. It’s people just like you and I that want to be a part of something bigger that want to continue this tradition and that want to see USC excel beyond what it already has in the last 125 plus years.”

The medical enterprise is going to be a top priority for the Campaign over the next two years in order to foster technological advancements in human health. In the Campaign, $1.5 billion has already been raised for health sciences.

Six major gifts, along with collective contributions of smaller donations, have allowed the Keck School of Medicine to improve medical education, research and patient care efforts.

“This extraordinary support is a tremendous vote of confidence in the work we do every day at USC,” Nikias said in a statement released by USC News. “It reflects the passion of our wider community and its immense desire to see the University’s scholarly and creative work benefit society.”

When USC reaches the $6 billion mark the Campaign efforts will not stop.

In the long term, the Campaign fund is set to increase USC’s average annual fundraising efforts.  Before the campaign began, USC averaged about $284 million a year. According to Advancement Services, USC has been averaging in the $800 million  range annually for several years of the current fundraising campaign.

“I think when we finish that $6 billon, what we want to be able to say is, ‘Now what is the new normal?’” Vranich said. “There is always at a university like this, ‘What is the next project, what is the next big transformational [project], what faculty members do we want or what do we want to do with research?’  Every single dollar that comes in here counts towards the campaign — it doesn’t matter where it goes, but it all counts.”

Sebastian Vega contributed to this report.