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Forward Together nears $60 million behind basketball success and new football coach

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The UMAA campaign Forward Together has now raised over $59 million since beginning its capital campaign fundraiser in August to build a new basketball arena and add seating to bowl in the North Endzone of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium by the start of the 2015-16 school year.

The goal of Forward Together is to raise $150 million through a diverse, mixed-funding approach. Forward Together celebrated reaching the $25 million fundraising mark at the end of September and reached the $50 million mark in early January.

Danny White, the senior associate athletics director, currently spearheads the revenue team of the UMAA Foundation and has been impressed with the influx of donors during the beginning of the campaign.

“I think it speaks volumes for the Ole Miss community, alumni and, certainly, our donors for us to be just shy of $60 million having gone through the football season we just went through,” he said.

White believes it is hard to say that there were any adverse impacts on donations after the football season because the campaign is already so far along in terms of achieving its goals.

Michael Thompson, senior associate athletics director for communications and marketing, said he sees the campaign as an exciting opportunity for all Ole Miss fans.

Thompson said that “right now is a really exciting time to be part of Ole Miss,” because of the campaign. Thompson said Ole Miss athletics are at a major turning point and the campaign is about where the future takes the whole department.

White credits men’s basketball head coach Andy Kennedy’s ability to bring more young talent to Oxford and the program’s overall strength and success as catalysts for the early success of Forward Together.

Thompson also credits the introduction of new football coach Hugh Freeze for getting the fan base excited about the future, which is the focus of Forward Together.

“I think coach Freeze has brought a big boost to the campaign,” Thompson said. “It just gets the entire fan base excited about the future, and this whole campaign is about the future. It’s not about today, it’s about tomorrow and how we build facilities that make this place even more special than it already is.”

In order to choose a name for the fundraising campaign, Thompson’s team researched who the Rebel donor and fan base consisted of and decided how they wanted their Ole Miss brand to be represented. Thompson’s team finally decided on Forward Together.

“Forward Together is very much about locking arms as a fan base and running to the same goal together,” he said. “It also means that everyone is involved in this. It doesn’t matter if you give $5 or $10 million. Everybody can play a role in this campaign.”

The fundraising structure created by White serves to mirror this image of everyone heading toward the same goal by allowing a myriad of options for donors.

“This is the first time we’ve incorporated a blended funding model in our fundraising efforts in terms of philanthropy (and) traditional fundraising, as well as premium seat revenue with the product we call CGA, Capital Gift Agreement,” he said. “We feel like it’s a bit innovative and a different approach, but it’s been very successful.”

Anyone can contribute to the campaign through giving simple donations, joining the Vaught Society or making Capital Gift Agreements.

The Vaught Society was created two years ago and is now compromised of 140 members. To join the group, one must make a minimum contribution of $5,000 a year for five years.

Capital Gift Agreements are like personal seat licenses but structured differently in order to retain tax deductibility. This ensures the contribution is created as a donation.

“Rather than a contract, like a seat license, Capital Gift Agreements are a pledge and for (donors’) contributions they get rights to their seats,” White said.

The campaign’s funds will be used in two phases. Phase One will cost $100 million and will consist of building a first-class, 10,000-seat basketball facility and renovating Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Phase Two will cost $50 million and will expand Vaught-Hemingway Stadium through the North Endzone, bringing the stadium’s capacity to over 70,000.

The total plan is to raise $150 million. Of the $150 million, approximately $50 million will come from philanthropic giving and $100 million will come from seat-related revenue. None of the campaign will use public funding.

To view renderings of the projects or to donate to the Forward Together campaign, visit www.ForwardTogetherRebels.com.