Wanted: $132M

Fundraising goal ‘ambitious’ but achievable

Vice-Principal (Advancement) David Mitchell says his $132-million fundraising goal is achievable.
Vice-Principal (Advancement) David Mitchell says his $132-million fundraising goal is achievable.

Vice-Principal (Advancement) David Mitchell has a $132-million goal hanging over him—the amount the University’s expected to raise in donations towards the cost of the Queen’s Centre.

It’s more than half the original budgeted cost of the $230-million centre. So far the project is $41 million over what’s budgeted, and rising construction costs mean the price tag for Phases Two and Three may go up, as well.

Mitchell said the Board of Trustees approached him to see if increasing the fundraising goal is a possibility. He told them that would be a bad idea.

“It’s been tried and I’ve resisted,” he said. “There is pressure right now [to raise the fundraising goal] because of the cost escalation. … [But] the worst thing we could do is start raising the bar on it.

“This is actually very ambitious,” he said. “We have a rather bold objective in front of us and … the worst thing we could do is start changing the yardstick on it.”

So far they’ve raised about $15 million—a little more than 11 per cent of their goal. Mitchell has until the centre’s completion—scheduled for late 2014—to collect the entire $132 million in either grants or pledges. He said it’s an ambitious goal, but one they can reach.

“I do think it is [achievable], although it’s ambitions. It’s not a slam dunk.”

The University is soliciting bids for naming rights to everything from the relatively cheap $25,000 to $30,000 for meeting rooms to gymnasiums to more than $1 million to name the planned “crossroads” of the student life centre. The Queen’s Centre itself is up for grabs, if the price is right: Mitchell said potential donors would have to pony up around $44 million—a third of the total fundraising goal—for the privilege of naming the centre.

Several spaces have already been spoken for, but Mitchell said he can’t divulge who has spoken for what just yet, at the donors’ behest.

Any high-profile naming opportunities have to go to Board of Trustees for approval.

Mitchell said it’s a possibility a corporation will buy naming rights to one of the rooms or facilities up for grabs.

“That’s something we’re not actively pursuing, not aggressively, yet, but I think there could be opportunities there,” he said. “We haven’t ruled out the possibility of corporate namings.”

Four members of the office of advancement’s development team are devoted to raising money for the centre. Mitchell said they’re giving all alumni and friends an opportunity to donate, but are focusing their efforts on the bigger fish in the fundraising pond.

“The strategy is to focus on million-dollar-plus donors,” he said. “Fortunately at Queen’s we do have a number of individuals who fit that profile.”

They have their work cut out for them, however.

“The Queen’s Centre is a priority but not everyone wants to donate to infrastructure. It’s not the easiest path. … The majority of donors want to give to people,” Mitchell said, adding that their challenge is to convince potential donors that this project is important to students as “the heart and soul of Queen’s campus.”

“If donors see it as a bunch of bricks and mortar … it might not be as exciting,” he said. “[We have to do] a better job of conveying the Queen’s Centre as more than just a building project.”

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