Giving back: Little things mean a lot

By Mark Dorgan

We're in the final months of the university's "Inspire Innovation" campaign, which concludes June 30, 2013. And while we've achieved a lot, we're striving to reach as far as we can over $1 billion. (As of July 31, the campaign stood at $1.07 billion.) What's been achieved? Well, we started the campaign with three principal goals--raising money for the university's endowment, raising brand awareness of Carnegie Mellon University and building community by increasing alumni engagement. We've been successful on all of those fronts.

In addition to those goals, the Inspire Innovation campaign was designed to help us build the advancement infrastructure and alumni engagement that will allow CMU to continue growing well into the future. We've made some great leaps forward, but there's a lot of work left to do. It's no great secret that Carnegie Mellon lags its peer institutions in the size of our endowment per student. That has a direct impact on the cost of a CMU education. For the university to continue to support the bright and creative students that it's attracted for the past 100 years, it simply must continue to add to that endowment.

That's an important reminder that money we raise is more than just an abstract number. It translates directly into helping people at Carnegie Mellon--through scholarships, fellowships for graduate students and endowed faculty chairs.

Increasing philanthropic support is a challenge for any non-profit, given the growing number of non-profit organizations seeking contributions these days. CMU is fortunate to have a loyal and committed base of alumni and friends who recognize the importance of supporting the great students, faculty and research that takes place here. 

Part of "Inspire Innovation" campaign took place during the economic crisis and downturn. Believe me, we had some concerns about hitting our targets. But many, many, many friends, alumni and others who believe in the work that CMU does wanted to help us achieve our goals and continue our mission--and the proof is in the resulting success of the fundraising campaign. The chair of the Inspire Innovation campaign is Ed Frank (CS'85), a member of CMU's board of trustees. Ed is fond of saying, "If you want to change the world, give to a university." Alumni, friends and parents have demonstrated this through their support of CMU. 

The School of Computer Science has been the recipient of some extraordinary gifts from our friends, including the $20 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the $10 million from the Henry L. Hillman Foundation that made the Gates and Hillman Centers possible. Our largest alumni donation to date is from Chuck Geschke (CS'73), former president and chairman of the board of Adobe Systems, whose gift created an endowed directorship of the Human-Computer Interaction Institute.

And although large gifts justifiably get headlines, one of the reasons that SCS has made such progress over the course of the campaign has been through increasing our alumni engagement at every level. All gifts--whether they're of $5, $25 or $50--help us demonstrate to large institutional donors that our alumni are committed, involved and believe in the education they received at Carnegie Mellon University. 

Gifts in any range can make a difference, whether it comes to funding research or attracting the right grad students. All donors have the ability to target specific programs at CMU such as TechBridgeWorld or the University Libraries. There are funds within SCS as well that can be targeted, such as the Dean's Innovation Fund, which allows the dean's office to move swiftly to support emerging research opportunities at all levels--faculty, undergraduate and graduate. 

In some cases, affinity groups have worked together to raise money for special projects. In SCS, the Alumni Advisory Board led the way, bundling their individual gifts together to fund a suite of offices in the Gates Center, in addition to making individual gifts. 

We're also grateful to the many faculty and staff who have given to the university, sometimes through payroll deductions. Demonstrating that our faculty and staff are committed to the university's future has helped us make our case to institutional donors. We have numerous examples of faculty and staff who have endowed scholarships or named rooms or other facilities, including the chairs in the Rashid Auditorium. (One thing that has helped our fundraising efforts has been that so many of our faculty and staff are willing to say to our successful students, "I give--you should consider giving, too!")

Finally, one intangible benefit of topping the $1 billion mark has been the growing perception regionally, nationally and internationally that Carnegie Mellon has built up momentum that will help us continue to expand our reach well into the future. Having that momentum helps demonstrate to the world that Carnegie Mellon is a special and unique place that really holds meaning for the people whose lives it has touched.

To find out how you can help the School of Computer Science through scholarships, fellowships, faculty support or other gifts, please contact me at, or call me at 412-268-8576. You can also learn more about the Inspire Innovation campaign by visiting

-- Mark Dorgan is executive director of major gifts and development liaison for the School of Computer Science.
For More Information: 
Jason Togyer | 412-268-8721 |