Saint Francis University

Founded in 1847, Saint Francis University (SFU) is one of the oldest Catholic, Franciscan institutions of higher education in the United States. Located in Loretto, Pennsylvania, SFU has over 2,300 undergraduate and postgraduate students and is nationally recognized for its academic programs in business, health care, science and the humanities. In keeping with the principles of the Franciscan tradition, SFU is committed to providing a holistic liberal arts educational experience that promotes each student’s unique personal, spiritual and professional development. The University’s mission to impart its students with “a mind for excellence, a spirit for peace and justice, and a heart for service” is deeply rooted in all activities in the SFU community.

SFU’s relationship with S&W spans back to 2003. Over the past 15 years, SFU has prioritized numerous strategic initiatives that have allowed the University to evolve with changing times. The Called to Serve: Fulfilling the Promise capital campaign was successfully concluded in 2016 and raised $39.6 million from public and private sources for the launch of the DiSepio Institute for Rural Health & Wellness and the University’s new Science Center. Along with other needed renovations to the campus, the funds also contributed to the renovation of one of the University’s oldest buildings, Schwab Hall, for it to house the Shields School of Business.

SFU is now embarking on the capstone of their strategic modernization effort. Already a regional leader in health science education, SFU has chosen to respond to the rising demand in the health care sector by amplifying its investment in these programs. The $20 million campaign will fund the renovation and expansion of Sullivan Hall, the former home to their science programs, for this purpose. The transformed building will bring together all of the University’s health science programs under one roof, including new Physical and Occupational Therapy labs, a Physician Assistant teaching lab, a Nursing Skills Lab, as well as new and revitalized classrooms and office space.


Excellence, Peace, Justice, and Service

Founded in 1847, SFU is the oldest Franciscan institution of higher education in the country. With a mission rooted in compassion and service to others, SFU offers its students an academically rigorous and holistic liberal arts curriculum to prepare them for entry into a  competitive workforce.

Responding to a Changing Workforce

The health care sector is not only the largest, but the fastest, growing industry in central Pennsylvania. Consequently, the University projects significant enrollment growth across all its health sciences programs in the coming years. Leadership has chosen to respond to the professional interests of its student body and the demands of a changing workforce by launching a capital campaign to further invest in its health sciences programming.


Defining the Value Proposition

After S&W conducted a campaign planning study, it was evident that the highest capacity prospects for this campaign (with some exceptions) were not likely to be graduates of the School of Health Sciences. S&W and SFU have worked together to define the campaign’s value proposition for all the University’s stakeholders to underscore that investment in health sciences is central to the long-term sustainability of the institution.

The Challenge

SFU boasts an incredibly loyal and successful alumni and donor base; yet, with some exceptions, the largest donations to the University are not likely to come from graduates of the School of Health Sciences (i.e. those who have a natural and direct connection to this project). Rather, graduates that have pursued other fields (e.g. Business leaders), predominantly constitute the highest capacity segment of SFU’s donor base.

The Solution

SFU’s engagement with S&W around the Campaign for the School of Health Sciences (SHS) began with a campaign planning study—a process which confirmed the challenge highlighted above.

After S&W completed the planning study and recommended that SFU proceed with the campaign, our firm was retained to develop a campaign plan and to provide ongoing campaign counsel. S&W has worked with SFU to define the specific value proposition of investing in the SHS project for all individuals connected to this community—regardless of whether they specifically graduated from the School of Health Sciences.

In recent years, health sciences students have accounted for nearly half of the University’s graduates—a number that is only expected to grow in conjunction with the increasing demand in the health care labor force. SFU has recognized the need to communicate to its constituents that investment in the health sciences is critical to the University’s long-term financial sustainability and its competitive advantage in its market.

With S&W’s campaign plan put into action; critical leadership of the University’s president, the Rev.  Malachi Van Tassell, T.O.R., Ph.D.; a committed Board of Trustees; a talented and motivated Advancement team; and a highly cultivated and loyal donor base, SFU is well on its way towards success in this campaign.


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