May 12th, 2008

FGCU Plays Name Game: Campus Structures Titled After Donors

By Dave Breitenstein
The News-Press

Money talks, and schools are listening.

Just name your price.

Florida Gulf Coast University is enticing donors by promising their name in lights — rather, on buildings, walls or plaques across campus.

A pilot fundraising program has established a menu of donation levels, letting donors pick their price and the room they want named in their honor. Options at Lutgert Hall, the business school’s new building, start at $5,000 for a notation on the “Wall of Honor,” and rise to $250,000 for the courtyard. Holmes Hall, the engineering complex, has a similar pricing scenario.

That approach to fundraising — give us money and we’ll put your name on the wall — is blunt, but it’s working. FGCU has raised millions of dollars, and neither building is even complete. Other colleges, and even private schools in Southwest Florida, are renaming buildings if the price is right.

“They want their names associated with a quality program,” said Linda Lehtomaa, senior director of advancement. “They also want students to see their name.

“They want students to stay here in this area and consider them potential employers.”

None of the money raised through the naming rights campaign pays for construction costs. Instead, Holmes Hall donations will outfit the building with scientific equipment, and Lutgert Hall donors are contributing to an endowment that funds scholarships, faculty positions and initiatives.

The Business of money
Senior Kirsten Crame, 23, anxiously awaits the fall opening of Lutgert Hall, the 62,000-square-foot, $19.4 million future home of the Lutgert College of Business. In 2005, Raymond and Beverly Lutgert of Naples pledged $5 million, which is the threshold for naming rights on an entire building at FGCU. Raymond Lutgert is founder of the development firm Lutgert Cos.

Once it opens, students will enter Lutgert Hall through the Health Management Associates Atrium, then could head to the Source Interlink Companies Case Study Classroom or the Wasmer, Schroeder & Company, Inc. Trading Room.

When students want to cram a bit on exam days, they can stop by The Fifth Avenue Advisors or The Wynn Family study rooms. Or they could pop into the ALLETE Properties Faculty Lounge for a chat with their professor.

While it might seem Crame will be walking into a commercial, she sees the trade-off.

“I don’t think it’s selling out,” said Crame, an accounting and finance double major from Friendswood, Texas. “It’s a creative way to bring money to the school, and is working great for students, faculty and staff.

“With the budget problems in Florida, it’s all that much more important.”

FGCU, like all state colleges and public schools, are seeing their budgets reduced because Florida is generating less revenue during the economic downturn. That’s why colleges are seeking donors to finance programs otherwise not covered by state funds. The FGCU Foundation typically provides tax receipts, thus allowing some donors to recoup a portion of their contribution through their annual income tax returns.

Lutgert Hall will open in August, while Holmes Hall is slated for a January grand opening, just as the first group of engineering students wrap up their education.

“We don’t expect to have a name on every room when we open, but we will have a good representation of businesses in our buildings,” Lehtomaa said.

Davidson Engineering of Naples is among six donors who have contributed money through Holmes Hall’s naming rights campaign. Davidson has no ties to FGCU, other than its geographic proximity to campus. None of its 21 employees is an Eagles alumnus, and Davidson has never won contracts for any campus projects.

“Our donation was not based on what we could get for it,” said vice president Leaetta Davidson. “We want to help the engineering department grow.

“We try to back anything that supports the field of engineering.”

Davidson Engineering contributed $10,000, thus earning a plaque outside a small student club room.

“We gave what we could at this time, given the economic conditions,” Davidson said.
If business or engineering doesn’t strike a chord, Lehtomaa said FGCU is starting a similar campaign for Herbert J. Sugden Hall, which will house the university’s resort and hospitality management program. Additionally, several academic buildings, the arts complex, campus support complex, family resource center, center for performing arts, student housing complexes, student union and library are open to naming opportunities.

For those without deep pockets, FGCU’s Alumni Association offers engraved, commemorative brick pavers for $150, which includes a free one-year association membership.

Bid on Me Boulevard
Colleges aren’t the only ones approaching donors with plaques ready for engraving. Evangelical Christian School in Fort Myers recently held an auction on campus, selling naming rights to the school’s circle drive. “Bid on Me Blvd.” drew multiple bids, but ECS has yet to reveal the winner’s name or bid amount.

Evangelical also has tiers for naming rights: $5,000 for a portable classroom, $10,000 for the principal’s office, $25,000 for a locker room, $50,000 for the playground, $100,000 for the lobby, $250,000 for the baseball field or football stadium, $750,000 for the gymnasium and $3 million for the Fine Arts Center. All 1,516 seats inside the center are going for $300 a pop.

Canterbury School, also in Fort Myers, boasts an arts center, courtyard and faculty lounge all reflecting donors’ names. While the goal is to raise money for academics or construction, it doesn’t hurt to have prospective donors try to match or exceed contributions of their peers.

“We want to promote philanthropy to our school,” said Canterbury development director Chris Fusco. “If they can see people giving to the school, at times it can encourage others to donate as well.”

Canterbury offers naming rights during its capital campaigns, but places an emphasis on donations for its endowment fund. Those donors must contribute at least $50,000 for their name to be attached in perpetuity.

“You want to build your endowment,” Fusco said. “That is money that never goes away, and helps you plan for the future.”

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