Georgia Health Sciences University quadruples fundraising in two years

$10 million from Dr. J. Harold Harrison, who died in June, will help build the $76.5 million Education Commons building for Medical College of Georgia and the College of Dental Medicine.

Georgia Health Sciences Uni­versity had a “really good year” in raising more than $43 million in philanthropic gifts, in part because of a change in tactics and increased staff, the school’s chief development officer said.


The challenge ahead is raising enough for a $100 million cancer research building, which would replace one that is about six years old and only partially filled.

In interviews and in documents obtained by the Georgia Open Records Act, GHSU reports its fundraising went from $10.6 million in Fiscal Year 2010 to more than $42 million in Fiscal Year 2012.

Actually, “when we finished it was $43.6 million,” said Chief Development Officer Susan Barcus. “It was a really good year.”

Much of that resulted from two large gifts: $10 million from the late alumnus Dr. J. Harold Harrison for the $76.5 million Education Commons building and a $20 million pledge from cancer patient Michael Bright, which will be paid out from proceeds of a development he is creating in West Africa that includes a port and an oil refinery, according to a GHSU publication.

That $20 million is pledged toward the $100 million Cancer Research Building, which would include $45 million in bond funding if the Fiscal Year 2014 capital budget of the University System of Georgia is approved by the Legislature.

About $60 million is mentioned in various documents as the fundraising goal for the rest of the cost, but Barcus said that number is in flux.

“We are changing how much money we’re going to raise for which project,” she said. “I can tell you we are looking for $12.5 million for the Cancer Research Building right away so that we can get started on the Cancer Research Building and keep up with our recruitment for researchers, which is important for us to get (National Cancer Institute) designation (as a Cancer Center). We’re moving really quickly on that.”

The $10 million Harrison gift was used to leverage an $8 million grant from the Woodruff Foundation and $5 million from the Augusta community, which puts the university closer to the $34.5 million it is trying to raise to complete the Education Commons building. The building will be shared by Medical College of Georgia and the College of Dental Medicine. GHSU Provost Gretchen Caughman said the school could break ground on that project as early as this fall.

Part of the fundraising success has been a change in the way the university approaches philanthropy, Barcus said.

“Instead of being structured around a person in each of the five colleges (at GHSU) and the colleges going out and raising money for their deans… we have institutional goals,” she said. “So we know how much money we need to raise over the next five to eight years to help with really key institutional programs, like the Education Commons building and the Cancer Research Building and some other things that line up in there.”

In addition to Barcus, three associate vice presidents are devoted to philanthropy and three to five positions were shuffled around to help, with more to come.

“We have a few more folks but really just doing the job a little differently with different focus,” she said. “We’ll grow again by three to five positions in this fiscal year to really put more strength around strategy, more strength around fundraising, professional skill sets, and then boots on the ground.”

That kind of philanthropic muscle is needed to build university projects in the current environment, Barcus said.

“The difference is the state… used to pay for all of your buildings and all we had to do is raise money for programs, scholarships and endowments,” she said. “We really don’t have that luxury right now.”

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