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UNC-Chapel Hill hits its $4 billion fundraising goal a year early, even amid pandemic

UNC-Chapel Hill hits its $4 billion fundraising goal a year early, even amid pandemic

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UNC-Chapel Hill has hit its fundraising goal of $4.25 billion one year ahead of schedule, making it the only university in the history of the South to surpass that dollar amount in a single campaign.

Carolina is the eighth public university in the U.S. to raise $4 billion in one campaign.

And it’s not over yet. While the university met its overall goal in the Campaign for Carolina, one key benchmark remains: raising $1 billion for student financial aid.

So far, the university has raised $810 million for student scholarships and fellowships and will focus on building that over the next few months.

The university is also still working to meet the individual fundraising goals of every school and unit on campus, including athletics, research and the arts.

Fundraising during the pandemic

The last wave of the campaign, which launched in 2017, came in the midst of the global coronavirus pandemic, which was intimidating for the development office, according to Vice Chancellor of Development David Routh.

The team that’s used to traveling, hosting events and bringing donors to campus had to learn how to raise money via Zoom.

“Everybody in the world has learned new skills, and the campaign has actually accelerated,” Routh said.

The campaign saw its strongest months of giving in the past six months in the middle of the pandemic, according to Routh. Despite the challenge, his team is most proud of the wide range of donors, including young alumni.

More than 200,000 donors contributed to the Campaign for Carolina, including more than 90,000 first-time donors. The bulk of the money has come from 67 gifts of $10 million or more, but 83% of donors have contributed $1,000 or less.

Some of the big name donations over the past 5 years include two $10 million gifts from the John William Pope Foundation and alumni Bill and Anne Harrison in 2018, the Hussman family’s $25 million gift to the UNC-CH journalism school in 2019 and a $25 million gift to the Kenan-Flagler Business School from UNC alumnus Steven Bell and his wife, Jackie Bell, in 2020.

While much of the money from campaign gifts is being used now, some donors have made pledges that will pay out over several years to come. And more than $1 billion in campaign commitments has been made through “deferred giving,” such as individual wills, according to UNC-CH.

“Our donors and the people of North Carolina have invested generously in the future of this University,” Routh said in a statement. “Their commitment ensures that Carolina will continue to serve as a leading center of discovery, education and service to improve lives throughout our state and the world.”

In 2016, Duke University concluded a campaign that raised $3.85 billion.

N.C. State’s Think and Do the Extraordinary campaign raised more than $1.6 billion before it ended in 2021.

The UNC-CH fundraising campaign officially ends in December 2022.


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The ability to teach elementary school students subjects in STEM, or science, technology, engineering and mathematics, was made possible through the first part of a three-year Innovative Partnership Grant from the state, Principal Abe Hege said.

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