Season 4 - Episode 423
The Baylor Family’s generosity is astounding. Last month, the University’s Give Light philanthropic campaign crossed the $1 billion mark, providing transformational funding across the University—from academics to athletics, student life to global engagement. In this Baylor Connections, Dave Rosselli, vice president for advancement, provides an update on the campaign and how tangible outcomes will soon be visible across campus. He further delves into each campaign priority and how each will benefit through Give Light’s comprehensive approach.
Derek Smith:Hello, and welcome to Baylor Connections, a conversation series with the people shaping our future. Each week, we go in-depth with Baylor leaders, professors, and more, discussing important topics in higher education, research, and student life. Today, transformational generosity from the Baylor family. We're visiting with Dave Rosselli. Dave serves as Vice President for Advancement at Baylor. Last month, Baylor University announced that the Give Light campaign had passed the $1 billion mark. Give Light was launched in 2019 with an ambitious goal to raise $1.1 billion for Baylor's future with a comprehensive approach, bridging academics to athletics, student life to global engagement. Launched with a transformational anonymous $100 million gift, the campaign has grown through gifts of all sizes from the Baylor family, boosted by challenge gifts from alumni and family members as well to encourage giving. Recently a $7 million gift from Paula Hurd to name the floor at the new Baylor Basketball Pavilion enabled the campaign to surpass the $1 billion mark. Really a moment for celebration, especially in the midst of all the headwinds of a pandemic. Excited to talk about that with you today, Dave, of the great work that your team and you all have done for Baylor. Dave Rosselli, thanks so much for joining us on the program today.
Dave Rosselli:Derek, appreciate being with you. Thanks for having me.
Derek Smith:Thank you. Well, I can only imagine that it was exciting to surpass the $1 billion mark, but I want to ask you as this campaign was coming together back leading up to the 2019 launch, $1 billion, that is an eye-popping number. As you thought about that number, what it meant, what it represented, the hard work it would take to get there, what was the feeling back then, especially as you kind of look back at it in light now of having reached that amount?
Dave Rosselli:Well, it was remarkable to finally get there. We had a lot of confidence that we could achieve it, but it took a lot of work, a lot of data analytics, and it's really an amazing team effort. Not just with our advancement group, but with the entire faculty, staff, parents, alumni, friends. Everyone has bought into this comprehensive campaign and that's exactly what was needed in order to achieve a $1 billion mark at any institution of higher learning. It was a team effort and a lot of hard work, but honestly, Derek, when I was interviewed for the vice president role back in 2015, that was one of the questions that was asked in the interview process. When I was at the airport with many of our deans, Dean Brad Tobin actually asked me at the time, he said, "Dave, what do you think is possible for Baylor University in a campaign?" I had done some analytical work on the Baylor family, what had been done in the past, what I felt was possible, and at that time I told the dean that I thought it was possible to achieve a billion dollar mark. Then when I came on board, it was a quick process of trying to determine with our consultants and with our team what was realistic and it became very clear that the passion Baylor family would be open to a $1.1 billion Give Light campaign and that's how we got to the point where we are now. A lot of hard work and we still have a ways to go, but certainly exciting to get past that pinnacle.
Derek Smith:Yeah. I imagine when you talk about $1 billion, 1.1, there still is a little bit more to get to that, and I know Baylor family is so generous it won't just stop there. But I'll ask you this as you mentioned it was exciting to cross that number, and I'll ask you more about this as we go on, but what was it like sharing that moment with your team when that when that $1 billion milestone was reached?
Dave Rosselli:Well, we're going to continue to share it. In fact, tomorrow, we're going to celebrate as a team in person down at Topgolf. First time that we will all be seen together for the first time in about 15 months. We have multiple meetings, of course, on Zoom, and they were extremely excited. We've had a countdown. We felt very confident that we could get to a billion in fiscal year '21. That was a part of the president's goals that she set out a year ago to the Board of Regents and so we were pushing pretty hard to get there. We actually have come a very far beyond the $1 billion mark just in the recent days as the momentum continues to build. But that was an eye on the target for the entire team that goes back, well, it actually it goes back seven years, but realistically 12 months ago, the team was committed to getting this $130 million in fiscal year '21 to get us over the goal. They were extremely excited and continue to be.
Derek Smith:Absolutely. Visiting with Dave Rosselli, Vice President for Advancement at Baylor. Dave, let's talk about the priorities for a moment. Because obviously when you're talking about a number as big as $1 billion, you're talking about something that impacts every aspect of the university. Just from the website alone, you're talking about priorities for the university of endowed funds, capital projects, President's Excellence Fund, initiatives across the university, academic units, the Baylor Academic Challenge to Support Endowed Faculty, Hord Scholarship Challenge to raise scholarship funds for students, and the Trailblazers Scholars Program to welcome even more students from a variety of diverse backgrounds into the Baylor family. So I know those are just what's on the website, but that covers such a large area across the breadth of the university. What have those priorities come to mean to you as you've got to see people who are passionate about them, to raise money for them, and to see how they'll impact the university?
Dave Rosselli:Well, I think endowed funds rise to the forefront in terms of excitement for Baylor alumni, parents, friends, because those are funds that live on in perpetuity. Not to say that capital resources aren't extremely important and very exciting for our donors, because capital funds are. But a scholarship endowment has always been such a passionate landing spot for our Baylor family to be able to endow a scholarship, receive literature from students that you're helping come to the institution, making it financially viable for them, and then receiving feedback from them that the investment that you've made in their lives is making a difference. All of the students that receive endowed scholarships stay in touch with their donor families, they thank their donor families, and that's very rewarding and redeeming for our Baylor alumni. So that continues to be a very, very important initiative. It's very important as an administrative team and for the Board of Regents that we focus on growing our endowment because a healthy institution is going to have a robust endowment and that's been a priority for Baylor for some time. This is allowing us to rally our troops, to rally the resources, and to focus on this particular area in order to make it a reality. To date we've raised in this campaign about $430 million of endowed funds towards our $500 million goal. Now, capital projects certainly has been something at Baylor that's been a top priority over the years. The stadium right behind the Robinson Tower is evidence of that. That was a transformational project in the life of Baylor University. At that time, it was a $250 million project. There were many that questioned whether that could be achieved because it was such a monumental task to raise that type of money to launch that type of project. Even though it was a huge task, it was accomplished and it catapulted the institution to this campaign today because it gave the Baylor family confidence that we could do great things philanthropically. So that was very important. Capital projects is another priority for us. It's a $300 million goal in this campaign. To date, we've raised about $220 million of the 300, and we're just now really leaning into it. The Welcome Center is launching with construction this summer. The Baylor Basketball Pavilion is six months to 12 months down the line. We've raised nearly $100 million dollars for that project, but more on the horizon. Football operations is just behind that or on a parallel track and we're continuing to raise money for that project. Then there's also residence halls that are going to launch in the next 12 to 18 months and there is a potential for our Baylor family to come alongside some of these legacy residents facilities like Collins or Memorial or Alexander. So I believe in the next two to three years, there's going to be tremendous excitement for capital projects, just like there has been for our endowed funds project. Then there's always an interest and a priority for current use funds, and those funds go towards the discretionary funds that Deans raise money for, the President's Excellence Fund, missions programs, things that require immediate use dollars. That was a $300 million goal in this campaign and we've actually surpassed that bucket and raised close to $350 million. So those are the three priority buckets. You've mentioned a specific initiative, some of them, that folded within those buckets. What makes this Give Light campaign different from any other campaign that's been launched at Baylor in the past is that it truly is comprehensive. It's not just a capital fundraising program like we launched with the stadium, it's not just a scholarship program that we've launched in the past for scholarship funds, it's everything combined. So there's something that is exciting for every single member of the Baylor family in this Give Light campaign. That's what makes it so exciting and rewarding.
Derek Smith:That's great. We're visiting with Dave Rosselli, Vice President for Advancement at Baylor. Dave, I think you've just painted the picture, but I'll ask you, as we think about the university mission, as we think about the strategic initiative of Illuminate and Baylor's vision going forward, how much did those shape those priorities and areas of focus that made Give Light what it is?
Dave Rosselli:That was a dramatic footprint or a dramatic color in the portrait. Because what Illuminate does is focus in essence on the growth of our STEM areas and our research trajectory and the academic or academic challenge, which to date has generated $50 million that's going towards what I call rainmakers, faculty that are world-renowned in research and doing the things that they love to do to solve the wicked problems of the world. You cannot recruit those types of individuals. Even if they love the Baylor mission, are Christian, and want to come to work for a Christian university, the resources that are required in order to bring those rainmakers to campus are so robust that it takes a designated intentional effort to recruit those faculty here. The Baylor Academic Challenge with this $50 million worth of resources is enabling us to bring in 17 new chairs at a $3 million plus level. The donors provide a million and a half and then our anonymous matching donor contributes also a million and a half, and what that does is really transform the campus because these folks are coming from all over the world. They're bringing with them teams of people that work in their laboratories. They're bringing research grants that are already in place. So it has a exponential impact on the research trajectory of the institution. So that $50 million investment is going to produce an order of magnitude for the future of our research arm. There was an initiative that I was involved back at the University of California, Berkeley in the early 2005, 2006, with Hewlett Packard. Hewlett Packard contributed $100 million of matching funds towards the chairs, similar to what we're doing now. I was able to witness how transformational that was for the institution to bring in these amazing, talented people from all over the world to do amazing work and you could witness firsthand some of the wicked problems of the world that were being solved because of the talent and the teams of talented people that they brought along with them.
Derek Smith:It's been exciting to see. I know we're in the process of a search process to fill some of those roles at the moment. May even have some news coming soon on those. I know it's going to be fun for you, for me, for the Baylor family, to see some of those tangible signs of the investment that people have made in that.
Dave Rosselli:We've taken some of these talented folks that have been hired in the past, not through Baylor Academic Challenge, but some of our best researchers that are already here, we've taken them on the road to showcase them during campaign events around the country to give our Baylor family that taste of what these type of caliber individuals could do to really make Baylor a focal point for the entire world in terms of a first-class research that's generated as a result of that work. So you're right, when we start to see names associated with these hypothetical programs that we've been citing and that folks are giving money for, it's really going to bring to life in full color what we are capable of here at Baylor.
Derek Smith:We're visiting with Dave Rosselli here on Baylor Connections. Dave, I want to switch gears for a moment and ask you about the Baylor family. Obviously, you get to the place that we are in this campaign and it shows how well the Baylor family has come along. I'm just curious from your standpoint, as you've interacted with people or talked to your team, what has stood out to you about the Baylor family's engagement, what the Baylor family has prioritized, or how the Baylor family has bought into this, as you said, this comprehensive approach to supporting and elevating the university?
Dave Rosselli:Derek, I think that the Baylor family has stronger affinity for this institution than any place I've been. I've worked at the University of California, Berkeley. They have hundreds of thousands of alums all over the globe. They take a lot of pride in the flag that they fly. I've worked at the University of Southern California, where the Trojan family takes tremendous pride in the close contact that they have with one another. I don't know of another institution that has the type of affinity that the Baylor family has for this institution. Incredible passion. I'm sure that it's because of the strong faith mission that undergirds everything that we do. We've had a lot of trauma since I've been here. When I came on board, we had issues related to sexual assault and our Baylor family had to navigate through that really difficult time in the history of the institution. We've had now the COVID pandemic and we've had to navigate through Give Light in a completely remote environment. We've had difficult decisions that we've had to make about tough issues that impact the entire country, the entire world, and we're just a small fragment of it, but we certainly have had to wrestle with it with our own. Regardless of what the circumstances have been, the Baylor family has continued to be so generous, so philanthropic, and have always risen above the issues. There has not been anything that has really slowed the Baylor family down and I attribute that to just the incredible affinity that our Baylor alumni, parents, and friends have. I do think that that Christian mission has a lot to do with that. The faith component is significant.
Derek Smith:Dave, you mentioned COVID-19, and obviously, as you set projections and as your team works on things, you're not counting on a once in a lifetime, hopefully, pandemic. Every hundred year pandemic has got to change people's financial pictures, change the way they go about their jobs, everything, obviously. I don't need to spell it all out. What did you and your team learn through that process, maybe even all the more importantly, I mean, as we celebrate the Baylor family, celebrate the people on your team who worked around any obstacle and helped make it happen?
Dave Rosselli:It's a great team, they've been very resilient, and everybody was fearful when this thing hit the world. More than a year ago, we were trying to figure out how we were going to navigate through this. It was a day by day process, as you know. We had to be innovative. We had to be creative. We had to change. We had to adapt. We had to slow down. We needed to listen. All of these things changed the course of how we felt the year was going to go when we set out to begin looking at goals for fiscal year '21. It all changed. We modified our beliefs. We changed the way that we met with the Baylor family. We pulled back our students from making phone calls. We stopped by necessity our field officers from traveling and meeting in person. We canceled all of the various events that we had on the docket. Hundreds and hundreds of events. We canceled campaign events that were already scheduled where we'd already given the entire deposit at these venues. In Nashville, we had something planned. We had something planned in Atlanta at the College Hall of Fame. So we just changed the course and became innovative with how we did our work. Even though there was resistance because it was foreign, our field officers, our alumni engagement team, the president, our management team, our associate vice presidents, they learned how to engage the Baylor family remotely. To be honest, even though we probably should have been doing more of it before the pandemic, it was foreign. We had not leaned into the technology and so we were learning as we were proceeding. We're going to be a much stronger university because of it. We will now never return back to what we were doing before. It'll always be a hybrid. We've learned to innovate. The president, as one example, had probably more high-level meetings in fiscal year '21 with donors because of our ability to use technology to engage with very busy people from around the globe, whereas in the past, it might take months to get a meeting and those meetings might get canceled and in some cases it would take years to do. So we really did benefit. The silver lining is we benefited. We are a stronger university because of it. We're a stronger advancement team. I think we can reach, now, and we did reach more alums than we ever had before because we were using technology that enabled us to go around the globe to contact people with our events. All of our alumni engagement events became virtual and so that consequently allowed more people to tune in and receive the content. So it was a crazy year that in the long run is going to catapult the university forward because of everything that we've learned in the process.
Derek Smith:Absolutely. Visiting with Dave Rosselli on Baylor Connections. Dave, obviously you guys have a fantastic team. The Baylor family came together amidst COVID and continued the progress and now we look forward to what's ahead. As we head into the final couple of minutes here in the program, I want to ask you what is ahead? You've talked about the fact that there's still more goals to reach, we're going to see construction in places begin, as you look ahead into the later summer months and in the fall and really what people should know about Give Light going forward now that we've crossed the billion mark, what lies ahead?
Dave Rosselli:Well, I think that there is always going to be a critical need for scholarship endowment. That's where the Hord Scholarship Challenge focuses. So I think that we have lots of individuals that are on out in our base that have not yet participated in the Give Light campaign, it gives them an opportunity to do so. We're going to really lean into reaching more of our alumni. We have done a great job in these first five, six years of targeting really the middle part of our base and the top part of our base and it is time now that we really commit more resources and reach the largest part of our base. By that, I mean folks that love the institution that don't have resources necessarily to make a huge major gift, but they have money that they'd like to give because they love the institution. It might be $100. It might be $500. It might be $25. I think because of what we just talked about in terms of technology now reaching more and more Baylor alumni, we're going to be able to bring those folks into the fold and have a much more healthy, robust Baylor alumni participating with us and engaging with us than ever before. Our alumni participation percentage is something that is very significant as we go forward in this Give Light campaign. We are connecting about 16% of our alumni back to the institution. That's important because it has a bearing on the U.S. News and World Report to factor in the U.S. News and World Report in our rankings. Our goal is to get that above 20%. healthy private universities that have robust philanthropic programs are well above 20%. We need to get there. There is absolutely no reason why we shouldn't given our 150,000 global alumni. So that's certainly going to be a top priority. Then, like I said earlier, Derek, the capital projects are really going to bring to life. Sometimes it takes a structure for people to see in order for them to get excited. The Welcome Center that's going to start going up this summer is going to transform the campus. It is going to be so exciting because it's going to be the new front door to the campus and every parent, alumni, or friend that steps foot on the campus is likely going to go through that building and they're going to be extremely excited. I think as soon as folks see those projects go up, the basketball pavilion, the football operation center, the Collins Hall that hadn't been renovated ever, I think those are really going to excite the Baylor family and put an exclamation point on the Give Light campaign.
Derek Smith:Well, Dave, that's going to be a lot of fun to see and to see people continue to be involved. Hopefully get that participation rate above 20% in a lot of different ways. Even in a lot of ways, you mentioned the Hord Scholarship Fund and the Baylor Academic Challenge, your money can be matched in gifts in those areas and that's very exciting. Well, thanks so much for taking the time today, Dave, to paint the picture of Give Light and crossing the billion dollar mark. Congrats to you and your team. I know your team, if you tried to name them all, we could be here another 23 minutes and you'd probably forget someone, but they did a fantastic job over the last year plus the last couple of years.
Dave Rosselli:Well, I appreciate the time, Derek, and I appreciate the work that you do and the contributions you make to the institution.
Derek Smith:Well, thank you very much. I appreciate that. Dave Rosselli, Vice President for Advancement at Baylor, our guest today here on Baylor Connections. I'm Derek Smith. A reminder, you can hear this and other programs online at baylor.edu/connections and you can subscribe to the program on iTunes. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections.