Individual Special Events: Tufts University - Silver Medal

Category 7A: Individual Special Events
Tufts University, Beyond Boundaries Campaign Kick-Off Event

Contact: Michele Gouveia, production manager, Advancement Communications, Packard hall, Second Floor, Medford, MA 02155, Phone: (617) 627-5324, e-mail:

Description of Event: On a starlight night November 3, 2006 at the historic Wang Theatre in downtown Boston (adjacent to Tufts University’s schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine, and Nutrition), 600 donors, alumni, faculty, students and university leaders gathered to celebrate and officially mark the launch of Beyond Boundaries: The Campaign for Tufts. Arriving guests were greeted with Tufts’ name in lights on the theatre marquis. Upon entering the grand lobby, participants enjoyed cocktails and passed hors d’oeuvres.

The campaign logo illuminated on a screen and at the appointed hour, the chairman of the board and his wife stepped up on the landing and welcomed all. Accompanied by the university president and his wife, the chairman explained that 35 alumni chapters around the world had gathered in October for Tufts World Day. Many of them marked the occasion by reciting a toast composed especially for the event. A video then played (58 sec.) which captured excerpts of the toast from alumni around the world to emphasize Tufts’ global perspective. All in attendance raised their glasses and then proceeded into the theatre for the evening’s program.

The program featured brief comments by a single representative from the student body (student government president), faculty (a professor from the medical school), and alumni body (a former NASA astronaut introduced with dramatic shuttle lift off footage), in addition to the campaign chair and the University President. Interspersed in the program were performances by student vocal and dance groups, including a 90 member Gospel Choir. (The faculty’s theatre director assisted with the well-executed timing.) A special announcement of a $20 million pledge by the 300-member Alumni Council was greeted with applause. The finale was the premier of a 14 minute video, “Tufts is…”

Guests returned to the lobby to find an international buffet including two dessert stations on three floors of the building. Dinner was followed by dancing to a live band. A special photo exhibit on the lower level called Tufts24 documented the vibrant life of the university over a 24 hour period. More than 100 student performers joined in on the evening’s festivities that lasted until midnight. Guests were handed the campaign vision document and a box of embossed Tufts chocolates (with insert note) as they departed.

Planning and Objectives: Planning began over a year before the event in order to secure an appropriate venue. In previous campaigns, the field house on the Medford/Somerville campus had been heavily decorated to provide an appropriate setting. To save money on disposable decorations and expensive draping, we chose an historic theatre adjacent to our graduate schools near Chinatown. Our president is not a flashy person and he needed to be convinced that this gilded venue would serve our purpose. Indeed, it ended up being a fine location in the heart of Boston. The theatre provided authentic “sparkle” and gave the event a heightened sense of celebration. Our objectives were to:

  • Generate pride in affiliation with Tufts University
  • Highlight Tufts achievement and aspirations for the future
  • Publicly announce and name our $1.2 billion campaign
  • Celebrate campaign progress to date and thank leadership donors
  • Announce a special gift
  • Create a sense of personal and collective power to make a difference
  • Build a buzz and momentum
  • Introduce portable campaign elements that would be shared at campaign launches across the country from January-June 2007. (video, portable photo exhibit, world day toast, publication, chocolates, banner, balloons with campaign logo)

Start Up and Follow Through: A team convened early on to brainstorm on an event that would highlight our mission and focus on inspiring Tufts people, be celebratory but not self-congratulatory, be mindful of what is “truly Tufts,” appeal to both head and heart, be creative not crass, and provide an element of fun. Members included the Office of Special Events team, members of advancement communications as well as alumni relations. Regular meetings with follow-up notes were scheduled to advance progress, meet intermediary deadlines, and confirm responsibilities. Preliminary ideas were presented to the president and campaign strategy group to ensure we were on target and within budget. A notebook was built to keep track of all commitments and timelines. Later, all invoices were included in the notebook. It now provides an excellent historical record of the event. A Save the Date card was sent three months before the event followed by a formal invitation embossed with the bold new Tufts word mark which the highly visible campaign has helped reinforce.

Audiences: For the Boston campaign kick-off, donors of $25,000 or more were invited from the New England area, all members of the board of trustees (whose meeting was scheduled for the same weekend), university administrators, and student speakers and performers. (Regional launches held in 2007 cast a larger net to all alumni, friends/donors, and parents in the region.) A total of 600 people attended the event.

Resources: Staff included the Office of Special Events team (3), members of advancement communications (2) as well as alumni relations. (2) Two members of the drama department assisted with stage management. Donor relations staff (2) helped with greeting guests and handing out name tags.

Nearly 100 students volunteered to entertain and then mix with our guests at the event. Their energy throughout the evening was contagious. Three alumni and campaign leaders volunteered to be speakers. One faculty member also spoke along with the student government president.

Budget: $277,000 covered catering (food and liquor), equipment rental, flowers, stage crew, audio visual rental and labor, banner installation, lighting, ushers, live dance band, and custom chocolates.


  1. Since the campaign launch event November 3, 2006, the university has raised nearly $10 million and more significant gifts are in discussion.
  2. The portable elements introduced at the kick-off have traveled well and effectively to regional events in New York, Washington, Los Angeles, Palm Beach, and soon London and San Francisco.
  3. The video which premiered is in high demand and will become part of a special annual fund donor thank you mailing.


  • From a $2 million donor: “The Beyond Boundaries event was just fantastic. It was fun, enlightening and I am certain a great success. The entire evening was perfect and the details attended to the event were beyond expectations. The presentation of Tufts was spectacular. Bravo! Great! Fantastic!”
  • From the President of the Alumni Association: “The kick-off event for Beyond Boundaries was the most impressive Tufts event I have ever attended at Tufts or any other institution. The entire evening was perfectly planned and executed. It was a great night and set the perfect tone for the campaign…it was a home run!”
  • From the Chair of the Board of Trustees: “Just wanted you to now that I received many compliments about last night’s festivities. Kudos to the entire team.”
  • From a major gift fundraiser: “The video was very, very well received. It inspires a real excitement about Tufts. It was terrific. We should be spreading it like jelly everywhere we go.”
  • From the President of the University: “Thank you all for a fabulous campaign launch. From my perspective, everything was perfect—the setting, the tone, the messages, the performances, the food, the staging, the video…I could go on. Most importantly, there was incredible energy in the room. I wish I could have bottled it. People loved the event. It made us all proud to be associated with Tufts.”