Letters to campus

December 2011

Dear K-State Faculty and Staff,

This is the Happy Holidays edition of my monthly letter. I hope that as we finish up the fall semester each of you will have an opportunity for relaxation and reflection on 2011, and will come back after the break fired up to have a great 2012!

Provost April Mason and I had the opportunity to visit with each college and other similar units to roll out K-State 2025 early this fall. Excellent questions were raised in each session – and each academic unit had different concerns and comments. The next steps in the K-State 2025 planning process will focus on colleges and departments either developing or updating strategic plans to supplement the university-level K-State 2025 plan. We hope that these college and similar unit plans will be completed by the end of the spring 2012 semester – with academic department and similar unit plans developed by the end of 2012. If we continue to do our planning well, every K-State faculty and staff member should be able to assist us in our overall goal with a clearly defined set of plans for departments and colleges, as well as the university, that all align with one another.

While all of this sounds terrific, one of the fundamental questions focuses on how to fund all of the excellent ideas in K-State 2025. There is no doubt that if we are going to be successful in achieving our Top 50 goal that we will need to acquire substantial additional financial resources. Where will these funds come from? First, we will need to continue to build the case with the Kansas Legislature for why a Top 50 ranked Kansas State University is critical to the future success of Kansas. This will require a clearly articulated plan coupled with nimbleness and flexibility to respond to a changing statewide political climate. Second, we will need to continue to compete for federal funds in Washington – whether those are future “earmarked” funds or competitive grants and contracts. As we move ahead with the K-State 2025 plan, there will certainly be opportunities for us to bring Kansas State University talent to significant federal projects – and we will need to take full advantage of these opportunities. Third, we will need to increase our private fundraising at Kansas State to significantly higher levels than we have ever achieved before. All three of these strategies will need to be part of our funding plan for K-State 2025.

It is one thing to say that we would like to raise more private funds at Kansas State – but new monies will not simply show up because we want them to! Within higher education, significant fundraising campaigns are often used to help fund new university initiatives or visionary plans. A decade ago, Kansas State was raising about $50M per year in private funds. Within the last couple of years this has increased to a plateau of about $90M to $100M per year. To provide needed resources for K-State 2025, we will need to raise this to levels approaching $150M to $175M annually. This begs the question – "Is this even possible at Kansas State University?"

In order to understand the likelihood for Kansas State to enhance our fundraising efforts significantly, the Kansas State University Foundation commissioned Alexander Haas to assess our readiness for this kind of effort.

Alexander Haas is a well recognized national fundraising consulting firm that has worked with many different colleges and universities who were all interested in substantially increasing their private fundraising. As part of their work with Kansas State, Alexander Haas conducted face-to-face interviews with key Kansas State University alumni and friends. These interviews were focused around K-State 2025 and our overall goal of becoming a Top 50 Public Research University, and whether or not interviewees would consider financially supporting this goal. In addition to the face-to-face interviews, an electronic survey with similar questions was sent to a larger group of Kansas State supporters. Overall, we had responses back from more than 150 Kansas State alumni and friends.

The overall response to K-State 2025 from our alumni and friends was overwhelmingly positive. Our alumni and friends like the national aspirations expressed in our Top 50 goal, and feel positive about the leadership and direction of the university. Additionally, many also expressed a strong desire to increase their financial support to Kansas State University to help us achieve the vision as outlined in K-State 2025.

So, what is next? Following a briefing from Alexander Haas on the prospect of increasing our private philanthropic support to assist us in K-State 2025, the Kansas State University Foundation Board of Directors voted to start a comprehensive fundraising campaign in support of our aspirational goals. We are calling the initial stages of our fundraising campaign the "flooring phase," which simply means that we will be focusing our efforts in the near term to work with alumni and friends who have the capability of making transformational gifts to Kansas State University. After several years, we will then move into a more public phase of the campaign with an established financial goal that we will work toward.

Fundraising in higher education is no longer exclusively the purview of the president and Foundation staff members. In order to achieve the types of fundraising success that are possible at Kansas State, a campus-wide effort involving the entire university community will be required. Vice presidents, deans and department heads will all need to take an active role in assisting with raising additional funds – and more importantly – thanking our generous supporters as often as possible. As a campus community, we will need to be creative as we come up with projects and ideas which can help transform our campus community, and impact all seven key identified areas in K-State 2025.

Will increasing fundraising in our current climate be easy? No. Can we attract additional resources to make a difference at Kansas State? Yes. It promises to be a fun ride – and there are seats on the bus for everyone!

Go Cats!

Kirk

P.S. It's the time for inclement weather, so please sign up now for K-State Alerts. We will use the text messaging system to let you know of any weather advisories. Weather updates, including closures, will be posted on the university website and local radio and TV stations will be updated. My advice: Always assume that Kansas State is open!