Leadership Through Giving

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On the wall in UB Law School’s development office is a row of big black numbers. There are eight of them. They start with a 2 and a 9. That’s $29 million-plus and counting– a tally that is oh-so-close to reaching the ambitious$30 million goal of the Campaign for UB School of Law. The books close on the seven-year Campaign on Dec. 31.

For Karen R. Kaczmarski ’89, vice dean for philanthropy and director of development, the celebration party can’t come soon enough.

“We knew that $30 million was an optimistic goal,” Kaczmarski says. “There’s a saying in campaigns that if you’re not nervous every day, you haven’t set your goal high enough. I’ve been nervous every single day for seven years.”

The remarkable achievements in pledging and giving that have already been made are testament, she says, to the commitment of the Law School’s 20-person national steering committee, to the leadership of the four co-chairs of the campaign, to the hard work of outstanding staff, and to motivated donors who have seen the Campaign as an opportunity to give thanks for their Law School experience.

The Campaign for UB Law School is key to taking the school to the next level in quality. Campaign gifts are bolstering the scholarship aid available to students, improving the school’s infrastructure, and providing faculty support to retain the very best professors. Scholarship support is the Campaign’s top priority, and Kaczmarski says about 35 percent of gifts and bequests have been designated for that purpose.

The numbers have been encouraging, Kaczmarski says, because alumni and friends of the Law School have taken to heart the “stretch” goal of the Campaign, and have responded with some budget-stretching of their own. Six donors have made gifts or bequests of at least $1 million, including a $4 million bequest from an anonymous contributor. Other donors who might in the past have given $10,000 have been asked to consider a gift of, say, $100,000.

That doesn’t mean writing a check today, Kaczmarski emphasizes. With campaigns like this, a pledge spread over up to five years counts – in its entirety – toward the overall goal. So, for example, she says, “a pledge of $5,000 a year for each of the next five years counts as a $25,000 campaign gift. An added benefit at that level is that if the gift is put into an endowment, it will produce income of $1,000 per year. For many people, that’s the equivalent of their Annual Fund gift. So they’ve effectively endowed their annual gift.”

In addition, the number of bequests has doubled during the Campaign, another avenue for making a substantial financial impact without tapping donors’ bank accounts. “It’s something people may not think about a lot, but in this Campaign we’ve been able to get people talking about that,” Kaczmarski says. The impact of the Campaign is already being felt. The Law School now has eight named faculty positions, up from just three. Hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship money is flowing to bright new students. And Campaign gifts have helped create the Advocacy Institute, the Law School’s new signature program that trains students in all aspects of advocacy, and have provided a solid foundation for the distinctive New York City Program in Finance and Law.

Still, until that first 29 turns over to 30, the job isn’t done. The final push is on for gifts, multi-year pledges and bequests to put the Campaign over the top.

“This has been a huge undertaking, and joyous in many ways,” Kaczmarski says. “One of the best parts is when donors see the difference they’ve made – meeting the student whose scholarship they’ve funded, celebrating our students’ success at trial competitions that the students have been able to attend thanks to private donations, learning about a student’s summer fellowship that a donor contributed toward, and so much more. The positive impact of our donors – that is what this is all about, and we are grateful beyond measure for their generosity.”