When Mike Morsberger took over Robert Holmes' 17-year post as CEO of the UCF Foundation, he inherited a multi-year campaign aiming to raise $500 million by 2018.
With an extensive background in philanthropic fundraising and alumni relations, Morsberger is no novice when it comes to securing grandiose donations — and he's looking to replicate some of that success at his new helm.
"If UCF were a stock symbol, I'd be investing heavily in it," Morsberger said. "I think its stock market is going to continue to rise and pay extraordinary dividends."
His experiences across East Coast institutions, including Duke Medicine, University of Virginia, Johns Hopkins Medicine and George Washington University, have led to a history of generating transformational-level gifts.
In his four and a half years as George Washington University's fundraising chief, he took over a small staff that raised $84 million from 2005-09 and transformed it by initiating a capital campaign to raise $1 billion in seven years with 200 professional staff members.
He also helped bring in two of the largest gifts — $50 million and $30 million — in the university's 190-year history.
At Johns Hopkins Medicine, he was associated with what was then the largest gift in the university's history: a donation of $150 million, which resulted in renaming the university's comprehensive cancer center.
"Never before has the UCF brand been as valuable," said Mark Wright, senior associate athletics director for development.
Wright said Morsberger has been engaging UCF's alumni base to a magnitude that they've never been engaged before, and he's absorbing President John C. Hitt and the athletics department's vision: "[To] help deliver the resources to really bust through the ceiling."
Morsberger believes in revolving around connecting alumni together by supporting a successful athletics program, which has seen success on and off the field.
Part of that effort will derive from a collaboration with development officers who will provide grassroots efforts to cultivate relationships and broaden the demographic of the donor and alumni base.
Wright believes that will happen fairly soon as UCF reaches a stage of life when its first generation of alumni is finally arriving in empowering positions, both professionally and personally.
"We are striking the chord with that mid-late '70s sort of graduate, where there is a capacity to make a difference through charitable giving," he said.
Along with donations from alumni, Morsberger's campaign will utilize private dollars to help the university pay for projects, scholarships, faculty positions and new athletics facilities.
His vision focuses to expand to Downtown Orlando, dramatically increase endowment funds for scholarship support and have a competitive advantage in athletics — with all these plans requiring philanthropic investment.
"It's the university's intention to go forward with the project, nonetheless, and to build on the great partnerships that are in place," said UCF Foundation Associate Vice President Anne Botteri regarding Gov. Rick Scott's choice to veto state funding for UCF's downtown campus. "We still have to work out the details in terms of what aspect of that would be generated through philanthropic support and post-state support, but the project is going forward."
Morsberger's multi-year campaign, which began in 2011 with Holmes, is quietly being touted to major donors, but is not expected to go public until 2016, Botteri said.
It has already raised $193,650,289 million and is on track to reach a $500 million goal by 2018.
"By fall, once I get a handle on my own organization and a sense of what the president, the VPs, the deans and what their aspirations are — what our tier leadership wants to see — then I can really formulate some plans," said Morsberger, who also serves as vice president for alumni relations and development.
Historically, the UCF Foundation has raised the majority of its donations through community partners, individuals and corporations rather than through direct UCF connections, alumni, parents, faculty and trustees.
"We've always been that institution that does a lot with very little," Wright said. "So as we grow and try to deliver the resources to take us to a next level, it's an amazing process to be a part of."
At the moment, the UCF Foundation has 4,000 donors and would like to reach 10,000 within five years.
"The leadership gifts phase is really before the campaign is launched publicly. This is not just UCF. This is the tradition throughout the country," Botteri said. "So, generally speaking, we usually don't go public until the leadership gifts phase has secured a certain percentage of gifts toward the total campaign goal. And our campaign goal is $500 million."
Brian Goins is a Digital Producer for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @byBrianGoins or email him at BrianG@CentralFloridaFuture.com.