Before the ground is turned up, before the seed is even sown, the soil plays a fundamental role in the harvest. The quality and consistency, to a large degree, determines the potential for growth. Iowa State’s campaign, which returned in excess of $458 million in five years, was by anyone’s standards a bumper crop. But below the surface of this well-run campaign was a belief grounded in the soil of the University: a sense of destiny.
From its own self-description, Iowa State has aspired to become the best land-grant university in the nation. Campaign Destiny was the largest fundraising initiative in Iowa State University’s history.
The efforts of many individuals made Campaign Destiny an extraordinary success. “The greatest beneficiaries were Iowa State’s students,” remarked ISU President Martin Jischke. “The millions raised for scholarships increase the opportunities for students to pursue college degrees, while money for new buildings, programs and professorships greatly enhance the quality of undergraduate and graduate education at Iowa State. Not only has the campaign opened doors, ISU has managed to open some eyes in the process.”
An anonymous gift of $80 million not only was the largest gift to any Iowa public institution at the time, but also the largest to any college of agriculture in the United States. Four of the top 10 largest gifts given to any institution of higher education in the state of Iowa, were given as part of Campaign Destiny. In fact, of the top 10 gifts ever received by ISU, eight came in during this campaign.
The campaign was only halfway through its five-year timeline when contributions exceeded $224 million—three-fourths of the $300-million goal. By early the next year, the campaign hit $244 million. Later in the year, the goal was adjusted to $425 million and was that goal was also surpassed.
This was Vice President of External Affairs, Murray Blackwelder’s second ISU campaign. Murray went on to work with Kinetic* later in his career, but he had arrived at Iowa State during the Partnership for Prominence campaign.
“The campaign goal was to raise $100 million. It had paused around $90 million, but we got things moving and completed the campaign with $214 million. Sometime after that campaign we uncovered a deferred gift of $34 million. The donors asked to remain anonymous, and their gift represented an obvious and substantial lead gift for a new campaign.”
The husband was a graduate of ISU, the couple lived close to Ames had been involved in the life of the University for decades. There was a natural cultivation process occurring over that time. The husband and wife were in their nineties and both passed away prior to the end of the campaign. The deferred gift of $34 million had matured to around $80 million. For this couple and for Iowa State, it truly was the ultimate gift.
Campaign Destiny targeted five major ISU areas: endowments, programs, buildings, financial aid, and general projects. ISU Foundations assets burgeoned from $140 million to $500 million. In five years, the endowment grew from $84 million to $350 million. Such gifts allowed the University to develop new curricula for undergraduate and graduate programs through initiatives such as the Center for Entrepreneurship, the Plant Sciences Institute, and ISUs first named school, the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication. Additionally, outright and deferred gifts funded 22 new faculty professorships and chairs.
“Over 50 building projects were advanced and the campaign financed building projects throughout the campus—from the development of Reiman Gardens to the enhancement and expansion of Jack Trice Stadium,” said Thomas Mitchell, ISU Foundation President.
Gifts helped construct the Engineering Teaching and Research complex for the College of Engineering; the Palmer Human Development and Family Studies Building for the College of Family and Consumer Sciences; Kocimski Auditorium for the College of Design; the Gerdin Business Building; Honors Building; 4-H Extension Youth Building; and the Carver Co-Laboratory for the Plant Sciences Institute.
Campaign Destiny opened up opportunities for students in Iowa, and throughout the nation, with financial aid through scholarships, fellowships, internships and cooperative experiences. The Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication more than tripled the money awarded prior to the campaign. Annual scholarships multiplied from $30,000 to $100,000. Donor gifts created 614 new undergraduate and graduate scholarships, including the Hixson Opportunity Awards and Presidential Scholarships for National Merit and Achievement students.
“We had a good team,” offered Blackwelder. “The head of the foundation, the president, and I were all major gift fundraisers. But what really made a difference was when the faculty and staff became active in the campaign. The nine deans of the various colleges were very involved in the process. We started with a strong lead gift, which provided some campaign confidence, and the rest came together very well.
“We knew after the Partnership for Prominence campaign that we had a greater base for donor support. We had just over 20,000 donors and $10 million in outright gifts and pledges. A few years later, we had almost 40,000 donors and over $30 million in outright gifts and pledges. With the anonymous gift, it was clear ISU had the potential for another campaign.”
The five years of campaigning had a significant effect on ISU’s capacity to receive gifts. Each year of the campaign saw new records set for the number of donors. By the end of the campaign, donor involvement was at 54,083 and counting.
Campaign Destiny was such an overwhelming success, because the right ingredients came together at the right moment: a vision and a strategic plan to achieve it, involving campus partners, a strong national economy, and committed alumni and friends, added Mitchell.
Fundraising totals such as these have moved Iowa State into the top quartile in the Big 12 development rankings, up from eighth only two years ago. More importantly, Campaign Destiny’s success means more resources are helping Iowa State advance its aspiration to become the best land-grant institution in the nation.
*This campaign took place prior to Hartsook becoming Kinetic in 2022.