When the pandemic shutdown much of the U.S. last year, campaign leadership with the Newman Center at Northern Arizona University (NAU) did not waver. They never hesitated in their goal to continue raising the funding needed to address their capital needs.
“I thought ‘God is with us. We can do this,’” said Angela Vargas, the chief operations officer for the ministry center. She served as a leader for the Together, Let Us Go Forth Capital Campaign.
While most Americans viewed the restrictions and a slowed economy through unnerving eyes, Vargas remained confident. Aware that leadership with other campaigns across the country pressed the pause button, she remained steadfast.
“There was a lot of panic in the secular world,” Vargas said. “Everything was shutting down, but I knew that God was on our side. We could not have gotten that far in the campaign without Him. We could not turn back. We committed to exiting the silent phase and a July public kickoff.”
So, Vargas, along with Fr. Matt Lowry the chaplain at the Newman Center and campaign volunteers, persevered. They moved forward, with their faith and trust in God, into the public phase. Reaching their goals would allow them to replace the nearly 60-year-old Newman Center, with a new building—one that would include a church with a seating capacity of 450.
Along the way, they faced major challenges thanks to the coronavirus. A shortened school calendar limited on-campus time with students and families. The university cancelled key events, such as homecoming, which meant most alums, who typically use such an occasion to visit the school, stayed away. These obstacles, along with following university policies in respect to the health and safety of donors and campaign leadership, made it nearly impossible to conduct face-to-face visits.
“We remained persistent,” Vargas said. “Our campaign manager was very persistent. We spent hours making phone calls. We just persevered. We used Zoom to help with personal contact. It was a big instrument for us in fundraising.”
Two significant silent phase gifts ensured the campaign rolled into the public phase with momentum. Donors in the public phase then combined to raise the total to just over $10 million. Vargas said there is little secret as to why donors, during one of the most difficult and stressful periods in recent times, exhibited a willingness to support the project.
“I think they believe in the mission. They believe in our mission,” Vargas said. “Over time, we had cultivated relationships with them so they understand the importance of what we do at the Newman Center. That is a huge part of it.”
But Vargas believes that ultimately the campaign enjoyed success thanks to a formula that has worked for years.
“Teamwork,” Vargas said. “It was a combination of the teamwork between the Steier Group, the Newman Center and teamwork with our benefactors. I think Steier helped us organize the benefactors and we were able to reach out and continue to develop those relationships and invite them into this mission, one they know will serve students for years to come.”