IGNITE the Future at UCF

 

By leveraging the remarkable power of scale, UCF is challenging long-held assumptions about the role and scope of public higher education. And with a strategic infusion of philanthropic support, we are poised to emerge as the first of a new category of university, uniquely suited to meet the challenges and pursue the opportunities of a rapidly changing world.

Why UCF

 

In higher education, bigger isn’t supposed to equal better. Open the doors wider, and academic rigor suffers. It’s a tenet so universally accepted that it has its own nickname: “the iron triangle.” Tinker with one of the triangle’s three points — cost, access, and quality — and the others react to maintain a kind of equilibrium.

But UCF is different. As we grow past 63,000 students, this remarkable university keeps getting, paradoxically, better. Entering freshman grades and test scores, first-year retention rates, and graduation rates are all climbing in step with the size of our student body. Published rankings are following the same steady upward trend. So is our reputation for research and innovation.

UCF is excelling elsewhere too, in areas other institutions don’t like to talk about: maximizing value for students, who graduate with less debt and find more jobs than their counterparts across the nation; forging strategic partnerships with corporate and public organizations; and deliberately aligning teaching, research, and service initiatives to fuel our region’s economy.

But we’re not simply managing to maintain a standard of excellence in spite of being big. Instead, we’re intentionally leveraging the remarkable power of scale to break through outmoded perceptions of what a public university can or can’t do. The way we see it, we’re here to make a better future both for our students and for our society. It’s an audacious goal, but our formula is simple: scale x excellence = impact.

We didn’t grow into the nation’s second-largest university by chance. Rather, our size is the result of a commitment to creating unprecedented access for deserving students, not by lowering academic standards but by creating innovative new pathways to success — by meeting students where they are based on who they are, from first-generation freshmen to military veterans and from National Merit Scholars to non-traditional transfers. And that kind of access to top-of-the-line education has the power to unleash massive stores of untapped human potential. 

In 2012, at a celebration of his 20 years of service to UCF, President John C. Hitt said, “If there is anything I have learned … it is that our greatest danger is not to dream too large, but to dream too small.” Inspired by the big dreams of our students, we have always dreamed large. Now, poised to emerge as an entirely new kind of university — one that by matching access with excellence has the potential to fundamentally transform our future — we ask you to join us in those dreams.

The way we see it, we’re here to make a better future both for our students and for our society. It’s an audacious goal, but our formula is simple: scale x excellence = impact.

Why Now

 

Today, UCF stands poised to emerge as an entirely new kind of university — one that defines itself not by who it excludes but by who it includes, one that by matching access with excellence has the potential to fundamentally transform our future.

In order to fulfill UCF’s vast potential in an era of flat or declining state funding for public higher education, we turn to philanthropic support as our margin of excellence, seeking $500 million in gifts by the middle of 2019 through IGNITE: The Campaign for UCF.

Although IGNITE is the most ambitious fundraising effort in our history, it is not without precedent . In fact, without the extraordinary collective philanthropic effort five decades ago of a group of visionary Orlando residents who put up $1 million of their own money to help purchase land for the campus of the newly conceived university, UCF might not exist today.

Back then, the institution was founded primarily as a nearby source of engineers and scientists for the burgeoning space program. Like one of the towering rockets those early graduates worked on, UCF is on the launch pad, fueled and ready. Philanthropy can, yet again, serve as the vital spark that lights the engines, that touches off the waiting future.

UCF is on the launch pad, fueled and ready. Philanthropy can serve as the spark that lights the engines, that touches off the waiting future.

UCF's Last Campaign

 

UCF’s only previous large-scale campaign, Central to Our Future, began in 1999 and concluded in 2006, raising $366 million, well in excess of the original $200 million goal.

Central to our Future was focused primarily on funding for facilities and inspired major gifts that made possible the construction of Bright House Networks Stadium, the Rosen College of Hospitality Management campus, and the College of Medicine campus, as well as many other projects.

Central to Our Future benefitted tremendously from dollar-for-dollar state matching program that was in place at the time. For every dollar given to help fund new facilities, the state of Florida gave a dollar of its own. That program has since been suspended.

IGNITE is not only far more ambitious in its monetary goals but also broader in its focus, seeking to transform not just the physical university, but also the academic environment, the student experience, and even the community beyond the edges of campus.


UCF College of Medicine

Campaigns 101

In higher education, the term “campaign” refers to a coordinated, multi-year effort to raise a preset goal amount that has been determined through a careful feasibility study.

During the campaign, every gift to the university is counted toward the campaign goal; all fundraising activities are dedicated toward the campaign. Planned gifts (inclusion of UCF in a donor’s estate plans), pledges (promises by a donor to give a certain amount by a certain date), and some gifts in kind (donations of equipment, property, services, etc.) are all counted. Because of this “all in” approach, this type of campaign is often referred to as “comprehensive.”

Campaigns typically begin with a “quiet” or “leadership” phase, during which fundraising staff and volunteers appeal to the university’s most generous and steadfast friends and partners in an effort to secure at least half of the goal amount before publicly announcing the campaign’s goal, priorities, or projected completion date.

The leadership phase concludes with a launch or kickoff event where the most generous donors of the leadership phase are celebrated; the name, goal, progress to date, and projected completion date are officially announced, and a public call-to-action is issued.

In the wake of the public launch, fundraising staff re-double their efforts, rolling out the campaign message to the university's alumni, friends, and partners across the nation as they seek additional commitments that will help the university achieve its stated goal.

Campaigns are directed not just by the leadership of an institution’s fundraising arm; rather, they are collaborations between fundraising professionals, volunteer leadership, and the university’s administrative and academic leadership.

© University of Central Florida Foundation, Inc. 2015