June 20, 2005
Answering a global call for greatness
Johnnie ray is senior vice president for development and university relations
Emory is in a small circle of America’s most important universities, consistently positioned in the Top 20 in a sea of almost 4,000 institutions.
Look at the company we keep, and you will see the most recognizable university brands in the world—places that through the sheer weight of their intellectual horsepower influence the American and global landscapes.
Having a top-tier private research university that plays in this league, as Emory does, is an enormous economic, social, medical and cultural advantage for Atlanta, for Georgia and for the entire Southeast. In fact, with Emory supplying consistent access to intellectual capital that is clearly aligned with the needs of our society, this region can construct an ever-growing capacity to influence the national agenda over the coming decades. The value Emory can add to our local and regional advancement provides a strong platform for marketing ourselves in our own backyard.
Though Emory’s name recognition is not yet where we want it to be in relation to the cohort of universities to which we now belong, our work is not concealed and our campus is not cloistered. Emory is ready to move ahead in another of its trademark bursts of energy.
Indeed, we are now strong enough to look toward the real needs of society and real opportunities for leadership. What makes a university great? We intend to answer that question ourselves. Our ability to alter the national higher education landscape by publicly tackling critical topics of great significance, such as those identified as cross-cutting elements of the strategic plan, will be key in creating a stronger national brand.
Operating a major-league franchise such as Emory is intense and expensive—but so much rides on the outcome. Consider this statement from Erich Bloch, former director of the National Science Foundation: “The solution to virtually all of the problems with which society is concerned—health, education, the environment, energy, urban development, international relationships, space, economic competitiveness, defense, national security—all depend on creating new knowledge and, thus, on the health of America’s great research universities.”
As Bloch attests, the potential payoff of our efforts for Atlanta, our region and our nation is clearly worth the investment. We must articulate this payoff with greater skill and more coherence than ever before. It is critical particularly with a comprehensive campaign on the horizon—that our campus community and trustees speak with a common language and operate with a unified purpose.
The broad participation of the University community in the construction of the vision statement and the strategic plan was the first step toward creating this unifying context. Implementing the plan and launching the campaign will be the next steps.
How does a campaign build community? Because it is not just about raising money. Rather, it is a time to focus on purpose, quality and achievement, and to convey our intentions publicly in such a way that individuals can see themselves, their families or their communities somewhere in this new vision. If we do this well, we will improve our brand position and create an atmosphere in which philanthropy is far more likely to occur.
Nonetheless, because we will have to reach huge numbers of people, there is a business side to building a brand and running a campaign. In many respects, we will be running a for-profit venture inside of a large nonprofit organization. Running a campaign and building the University’s image requires marketing, branding and an understanding of demographics. It requires sophisticated messaging and media conveyed through common graphical standards and messages that link our disparate units into an aggregate Emory whole.
All of this will help create a public image and culture of philanthropy at Emory commensurate with its standing in the higher education marketplace. As we go about establishing this culture of philanthropy (for the first time in our history, really) the campaign will be the platform through which we define the role private support will play at Emory for all time—not just during the campaign. This increased baseline of philanthropic support should be sustained, if not continue to grow, during the years to follow.
Is all of this possible? It most assuredly is.