Campus Community / People of SU

The Campaign for the Uncommon Good Q&A

Written by Kristen Kirst

October 2, 2020

Graphic representing campaign.

Image credit: (graphic) Marissa Leitch

Community engagement cornerstone of campaign as it enters its final year. 

As Seattle University heads into the final year of The Campaign for the Uncommon Good, three campaign leads—Michael Podlin, vice president of University Advancement, Aly Vander Stoep, associate vice president of Development, and Jonathan Brown, assistant vice president of Alumni Engagement—talk about the heightened level of engagement spurred by the campaign, how each gift truly makes a difference and how to keep momentum and fundraising up during a pandemic.

How will the Seattle U community be engaged in this final year of The Campaign for the Uncommon Good?

Jonathan Brown (JB)
: The final year of The Campaign for the Uncommon Good will be marked by a special effort to reconnect alumni to the university, providing a final push across our finish line. Our Moment for Mission: The President’s Challenge seeks to engage 10,000 alumni this year through connecting, volunteering or giving to Seattle U. Many in the Seattle U community regularly connect with alumni and we are seeking their help in highlighting the stories and journeys of our amazing alumni.

What is the most vital aspect of fundraising in this home stretch?

JB: The final year is a little like the end of a record-setting sprint. We want to meet our goals at full speed, at our best, and with a cheering community that recognizes the significance of the moment. Raising more than $275M for Seattle U is a huge achievement that could only have been done with everyone doing their part. The eight years of the campaign have been like the training needed to achieve at the finish line.

Aly Vander Stoep (AVS): Moving into the public phase of the campaign is our invitation for Seattle U alumni to join us in this campaign in uncommon ways. Your time is now to invest in areas across campus that you care most deeply about. (President) Father Steve often says, ‘You can judge a university by the success of its alumni.’ 

Michael Podlin (MP): The most vital are the closing of major gifts, as well as broad-based alumni and community gifts. We invite all alumni to give commensurate with their heart and financial ability.

What unique challenges have you faced fundraising amid a pandemic?

AVS: First, I’d like to say that we have kept our Seattle U community in our thoughts and prayers during these uncertain times. The first response of University Advancement was to make care calls to our alumni and donors. We simply wanted to check-in and let them know Seattle U cares. The pandemic has impacted everyone and every business, fundraising included. One of the biggest challenges was not being able to meet with our alumni and donors in person. The foundation of what we do in University Advancement is built on relationships. We invite Seattle U alumni and friends to experience the university in ways that inspire and motivate them to get more deeply engaged and ultimately invest in an area they care about. We are learning how to engage with our alumni and donors in a virtual world. We are becoming experts in building relationships and creating inspiring events from a distance. We long for the day we can be together again in person. Until then, please know we have your health and well-being top of mind.

JB: A year ago alumni program delivery was provided almost 100% in-person. Since the pandemic, we have moved to program delivery happening almost 100% virtually online. This has provided both challenges and opportunities. Going virtual, we have a broader reach and we are finding opportunities to connect with folks who just could not feasibly participate in person. While we will return to in-person alumni events at the end of the pandemic, we will not give up on our virtual programming initiatives that have broadened our reach to our worldwide alumni network.

What is the easiest way for a community member to make a financial gift? And, once a gift is made, the job is not done. What can a donor expect from UA and the university?

JB: I made my last gift to the campaign during the Athletics virtual celebration, Redhawk Night In. I was able to make my gift with my credit card in less than three minutes. It has never been easier or faster to give online at Giving to Seattle U is just one way to invest in the university; those who feel hesitant to give can deepen their ties to the university through staying connected at our offered events or volunteering. Our donors are a special part of the Seattle U community, when they walk across our beautiful campus or see a graduate in the community doing great things, they share ownership in what we are building together.   

AVS: If you are interested in making a gift to Seattle U, please visit The Campaign for the Uncommon Good. Seattle University is committed to the highest level of stewardship and acknowledges every gift to the university. Gratitude to our donors is expressed through letters from campaign volunteer leadership, deans, faculty and students who also invite them to university events and opportunities.

To date, what would you identify as the top three biggest impacts made as a result of the campaign?

AVS: The first campaign impact to highlight is the new Center for Science & Innovation (CSI). The CSI will transform STEM education at Seattle U. It will become the new heart of our university. A place to shape the world’s next generation of leaders, a place where students will gain the skills and knowledge to solve the most pressing problems of today and tomorrow.

A second impact is the number of new endowments established by incredibly generous donors. These new endowments will provide support to students, faculty, Jesuit mission, programs and more in perpetuity, creating a permanent legacy of support for Seattle U.

The third impact is the diversity of support we have received. Campaign gifts range from $1 to $30M, with donors from current students to realized estate gifts after a donor’s passing. Support has come from alumni, parents, multi-generational families, foundations and corporations. The generosity of Seattle University alumni and donors has been extraordinary and will have a lasting impact on the university for generations to come.

JB: First, the stunning Center for Science and Innovation has already transformed the landscape of our campus. I can’t wait to see the transformation of our students that will happen inside the building. Second, $75M raised for scholarships is just incredible and I am excited that Seattle U will use this money to make higher education at Seattle U more affordable and accessible to outstanding students in need. Finally, finishing the campaign is a confidence boost for our whole community. When was the last time you were able to say, ‘We just raised $275M to support Seattle U.’ If we can do this, we can do anything! 

MP: The Center for Science and Innovation is the most visible campaign contribution to the university. The new building and the Bannan renovation is truly a breakout strategy to attract students interested in the sciences, engineering and computer sciences.

One aspect of engagement is a call to alumni to give, as well as serve as mentors and volunteer leaders. Can you give the elevator pitch for the President's Challenge?

JB: Seattle University impacted you. Now is your chance to impact Seattle University. Today, you have the power to ensure that current and future students have the same purpose-driven, passion-fueled education and experiences that you did. Our Moment for Mission: The President's Challenge encourages 10,000 alumni to take action. Connect with alumni and students at events, volunteer as a mentor or classroom speaker or make a donation of any size to expand access to scholarships and resources. Our moment is now. Let’s build a better future for all. 

Seattle U is in a period of a presidential transition. What will the expectations be for Fr. Steve as he completes his final year as Seattle U’s president? Expectations of the new president as it pertains to the campaign?

AVS: Fr. Steve’s final year will be spent celebrating his 24 years of service, leadership and legacy. A key fundraising initiative is the Stephen V. Sundborg, S.J., Endowment for the Jesuit Presence. This endowed fund will secure Fr. Sundborg’s vision for years to come, ensuring that Seattle University can always recruit, welcome and employ Jesuits whenever they are available to join us. It will help to secure the legacy of a Jesuit presence, a touchstone for the Jesuit education Seattle University has offered since our founding in 1891. Our hope for the next president is that he or she will take the baton from Fr. Steve and continue building relationships with our alumni and friends that last a lifetime. We are excited for our next president to join us on the frontlines as we raise support for Seattle U. 

JB: Fr. Steve has been the driver behind the President’s Challenge this year and recognizes this moment as the time for alumni to join him as an active member of the university community. My hope is that our new president will gather the momentum and community energy from our successful campaign and use it to launch into a new era of growth and distinction at Seattle U, for our students and our alumni.

MP: Fr. Steve’s fundraising successes are the fruits of his 24-year tenure and respect of our donors. As a relational president and fundraiser, he is spending his final year with our most generous friends. The next president of Seattle University will start at the conclusion of the campaign and have a perfect opportunity to meet our donors while building the relationships that will ensure the success of the next campaign.

How can we continue to measure and convey campaign progress?

AVS: Seattle University’s monthly campaign newsletter highlights the impact of the campaign, shares intimate stories of lives transformed through philanthropy and tracks our progress toward campaign success. Signature virtual events will be held to celebrate campaign milestones, such as the opening of the new Center for Science & Innovation. The Office of Alumni Engagement will be hosting regional alumni events in the coming months as well.