met memtower pd 298.jpg

Advocate staff photo by PATRICK DENNIS shot on 3-26-10. 00020511a. LSU memorial tower is one of the most iconic and historic structures on the LSU campus.

Patrick Dennis

As a Baton Rouge native, LSU alumnus and current fundraising consultant, I salute LSU’s upcoming capital campaign.

With 30 plus years as a fundraiser across the country, I recommend the following “must dos” for a successful campaign:

(1) President F. King Alexander must spend 80 percent of his time cultivating and soliciting high-capacity prospects. These investors want to personally know and build relationships with the CEO. Alexander’s new office should be a plane and a car, not a desk. He should seldom be on campus and allow his talented Cabinet to run the day-to-day operations of the University. President Alexander must imitate LSU’s first president — William Tecumseh Sherman — and become a relentless campaigner who wins victories on fundraising battlefields.

(2) LSU’s governing and foundation Board members (including TAF) must financially provide up to 25 percent of the overall campaign goal. If the leaders of an institution who are closest to it and know it best won’t step up, why should anybody else? Give, get, or get off the board.

(3) The university must increase its Development Office staff. Like most advancement offices, existing staff are probably already overextended in their current work. Capital campaigns are fun and exciting, but they also involve an explosion of new activity, tasks and deadlines. Burnout can become an issue, and when a staff member leaves, the personal relationships he/she built with potential donors suffer. Gifts in progress can reduced or lost.

(4) Wild card. For the duration of the campaign, 25 percent of all contributions to athletics should be designated to LSU’s academic endowment. I enjoy LSU sports as much as anyone. From the age of 6, I participated in my family’s ritual of attending Saturday night football games in Tiger Stadium. My fond memories of sneaking into the John M. Parker Ag Center to watch Pistol Pete’s basketball wizardry are still vivid. But, these are different times, and the question for today is: Which is more important? LSU the university, or LSU the athletics factory? Right now, Louisiana lacks and desperately needs a nationally ranked flagship institution for higher education. LSU must be restored to its previous prestige. All hands (and dollars) must be on deck to make it happen.

Lee Mikell

fundraising consultant

Edisto Island, South Carolina 

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