UCL News


Campaign for UCL 2034 - fundraising for excellence

30 October 2014

To deliver on UCL 2034, we will need to implement effectively and to stay focused on what really matters.

UCL's Portico One of the major projects arising from our strategy is our fundraising 'Campaign for UCL 2034' - in essence, a campaign that is led by a combination of myself and Lori Houlihan, UCL's Executive Director of Development and Alumni Relations, but that will, in reality, only be successful at the level that we intend, if it is understood and owned by all of us, staff and students alike.

What is a fundraising 'campaign'?

A 'campaign' is a defined, time-limited effort to raise a significant sum of money to propel UCL forward with its stated strategic intent. It is very much a coordinated effort, to raise money that will 'add excellence to our core' and that will allow us to ensure that UCL remains highly internationally competitive. It is designed to engage all of us, our friends, historic and new supporters and alumni in contributing to the future of UCL in a very real and tangible way.

A campaign creates momentum that will lift UCL into a new plane of fundraising activity. It will bind UCL together with common purpose. I reiterate that this will only happen if we all recognise our responsibilities and contribute to making this effective. A campaign is not just for our Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO) to conduct - although clearly they will play a major role.

Our starting point for action

To my mind, we have some great advantages already in creating a successful campaign. First and foremost, we have a new strategy, UCL 2034, which has widespread buy-in among staff, students and alumni and which has some clear priority areas and activities, against which we can marshall our fundraising efforts.

I cannot emphasise enough how helpful that is, when it comes to demonstrating to potential donors that any money they give will have a strategic impact on the future of UCL. That clarity of purpose is critically important when encouraging people to give. Our other great advantages are our performance, our profile in education and research, location in the capital city, and our historic values and culture.

Having said all of that, we do need to be highly organised, well-coordinated and cohesive in our efforts. In order to do that, we need to work with you, keep you informed and get you to see your role in all of this with great clarity. We also need to support and educate you to become an effective member of this huge team effort.

Clearly, we will need to focus on ensuring that those in leadership positions (both academic and professional services) really do understand and participate in the campaign and that is where we have started our efforts. I would like to inform and update you on progress so far and to outline the next steps in our 'Campaign for UCL 2034'.

Shaping the themes for the Campaign for UCL 2034

First, Lori and I have designed and pulled together an 'Internal Campaign Steering Group' (ICSG) that will do what it says on the tin. The membership of this group can be found at https://www.ucl.ac.uk/development/UCL_Campaign/ICSG_members. It is, of course, largely comprised of key leaders and our job is to provide thought leadership and coordinate this entire effort over the intended time frame (to 2020). You begin to see why the word campaign is appropriate!

The first job of the steering group was to identify the key themes of the campaign and ensure that they were informed by, and in alignment with, the themes of UCL 2034. At the same time, a different slant on these themes is required because a 'campaign' is, ultimately, aimed at a non-expert, albeit sophisticated, audience - not at an academic community. The campaign thus needs to capture the essence of UCL and what we want to do, but it must have a relatively simple and clear structure, as well as being immediately appealing.

Nothing is yet set in stone, but the four major themes of the campaign that we are proposing will have the following broad titles; Disruptive Thinking, Health, Our Students, and London. These are deliberately broad, but they more than adequately cover the panoply of activities for which we will be seeking support.

We have begun to engage with the wider leadership community to road test these ideas and the outline of the campaign was communicated and discussed at a very well attended Leadership Forum last week. The reaction was wonderfully positive.

For example 'Disruptive Thinking' was seen as being 'very UCL' and, by and large, it was felt that this theme and 'Health' would be broad enough to encompass most of our academic development projects.

London - and specifically our role within it - also has a clear academic dimension, but it was also seen as an all-encompassing theme under which our role in the local community, culture and innovation would find a clear home, as well as our intended developments at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and elsewhere.

We are now in the process of populating these themes with specific projects, which will clearly be a major piece of work and it is in this area that we need your help. We are not starting from scratch - we already have a fairly comprehensive starting point from our strategic planning process and from conversations to date.

In this context, the open discussion at the leadership forum was extremely helpful. The following is not intended to be a comprehensive summary, nor a series of decisions or priorities, but is more to guide you around the way that thinking developed and how readily our leadership group engaged with these concepts.

Most important of all was getting everyone to move away from thinking about funding in terms of writing a grant or interviewing for a fellowship, but to think more about how different it is to engage and communicate effectively with a potential donor, and how you might go about exciting them not only about your project, but more widely about UCL and its future. The phrase 'think like a potential donor' was used a lot (particularly by me) over the course of the meeting.

Feedback from the UCL community on Campaign goals

What ensued was lively, engaging and enthusiastic, and we were delighted with the discussion that followed. A few examples of the sorts of things that came across from group discussion are outlined below to give you a feel for the nature of our thinking and discourse.

1. That investment in people is key and that funding opportunities focused on this issue were as, if not more, important than bricks and mortar, especially:

o the ambition to have needs-blind admissions, (that is, admissions that do not rely on the ability of the applicant to pay fees) if not entirely then at least at postgraduate level as a way to tackle the PG funding issues - including the need for a greater number of scholarships for international students

o support for early career researchers, especially in the arts and humanities where project-based research council funding is less forthcoming and less sustainable as an early-career development option.

2. 'Disruptive Thinking' and philanthropy can play a big role in giving our people the freedom to think differently at the boundaries of knowledge including the need for seed-funding for projects to help unlock other research grants, or funding for topics that traditionally struggle to get initial grant funding

3. Philanthropy can potentially help our students to extract the maximum possible benefit from their time in London, not only through financial assistance to offset high living costs, but through specific schemes or programmes to help UCL students enjoy much that the London has to offer, for example, access to cultural and artistic memberships, funded internships, etc.

As I said earlier, the key points are not the specific content of our thoughts, but more the concept of the different and open nature of the discourse, the way in which you need to think differently and also the need to participate and engage enthusiastically in the 'Campaign for UCL 2034'. This was the first such discussion at UCL for some considerable time and there was no doubt in my mind that it was 'mission accomplished'.

Next steps for the campaign

The next steps are to collect thoughts and all the work on projects to date, to mobilise a further bottom-up process to ensure that we are capturing the very best fundable projects to sift into our campaign themes, with input from deans and directors of services and the ICSG. One plea from Lori and me is that if you are approached about the campaign by members of DARO, then please do engage.

Once this phase is completed, we will put together (most likely with help from external agencies) our 'Case of Need' and some high-quality promotional material. In the interim, we have been very actively growing our contacts and our base of friends and alumni of UCL on a global scale.

We are, of course, currently in the so-called quiet phase of the campaign and have already raised £129 million over the past 2.5 years. We will continue in this quiet phase for a while yet, most likely to 2016, as we get everything ready and strengthen our base of contacts. We would hope to be at a total of £300 million by the end of 2016 and to be aiming, ultimately, for about double that, as we publically launch the campaign - at which point, we will be the complete opposite of quiet about it all!

To finish, let me encourage you to add your ideas and to ask you to engage actively with this entire process. Our successors at UCL will benefit hugely from our generation getting this right.

If we are to compete with the world's best we need to match their level of philanthropic support and endowments. That can definitely be achieved, but it will require a widespread, dedicated and persistent team effort, and I promise you that you will enjoy the ride.

Professor Michael Arthur

UCL President and Provost

Image: UCL's Portico

Video: Learn more about the work of UCL DARO

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