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Posted on Mon, Mar 19, 2012 : 5:40 p.m.

University of Michigan to woo West Coast donors in next fundraising campaign

By Kellie Woodhouse

University of Michigan is on the precipice of another large fundraising campaign, Vice President for Development Jerry May told a group of faculty members Monday.

U-M's last fundraising campaign "The Michigan Difference," which ended in 2008, raised $3.2 billion dollars over five years. The school raised $273 million in fiscal 2010-2011, an increase of 7 percent over the previous year.

The upcoming campaign is expected to "dramatically expand" current annual fundraising levels, May told a group of about 50 faculty members Monday afternoon.

He noted that Stanford University recently closed the most successful campaign in the history of higher education, raising $6.2 billion. Columbia University and Cornell University —two private schools that U-M considers competitors— are in the midst of $5 billion and $4 billion campaigns, respectively.

Universities located in the West or East Coast instantly have a fundraising advantage over U-M, May said.

He emphasized that "wealth is on the coast" and that U-M's next campaign will focus on recruiting donors from such areas, given that the number of large donations from individuals and corporations in the Midwest has steadily decreased over the years.

For example, the University of California at Los Angeles has one of the largest yearly fundraising efforts of any public university. Last year the school received two donations equalling or exceeding $100 million apiece.

"There isn’t really the same culture here," May said of the Midwest. "Look at the number of companies that have moved out... They're on the coasts, or they're in the Netherlands or they're in Hong Kong."

May added that many Michigan alumni who live and work in California chose to give to California schools, such as Stanford or UCLA, because "proximity matters."

"These are people that are close to this institution. But what’s happening? They’re making gifts to other institutions," he said. "The competition is out there and they’re working hard."

Currently, U-M has at least four full-time fundraisers in California. The school has roughly 175 development officers in all, May said. Yet despite U-M's many fundraisers, the most powerful sells are often college deans and top university administrators, May said.

In its next campaign, May said U-M will focus on raising money for out-of-classroom experiences like research, internships, global initiatives and university projects that work to "solve problems" in both local and global communities.

Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for Reach her at or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.