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The University of Arizona Foundation is announcing a campaign Friday to raise more than $1 billion.

"Quiet" efforts have already been underway on the campaign fundraising for about 3.5 years, said James H. Moore, the president of the University of Arizona Foundation.

The organization hopes to meet its goal in a total of 8 years.

“We will be entering the public phase coming this Friday," Moore said.

The funds raised go into the foundation's endowment, which can pay for a variety of university needs, Moore said, from faculty, staff and student retention, to building maintenance.

"At the end of the last campaign we were raising $120 million a year, and as we’ve gotten this one launched in the quiet phase we’re averaging $151 million a year,” Moore said.

In the past, Arizona's three public universities relied heavily on funding from the state but that support has plummeted. The UA received a little more than $270 million in the current fiscal year, and funding will be flat next year, which is about $140 million less than in 2008.

As a result, Moore said, universities are turning increasingly to private donors.

The foundation decides to start big campaigns based on need and other factors such as the economy, he said. The change in leadership at the UA also makes it a good time to launch a campaign, he said. UA President Ann Weaver Hart has been in the position about a year and a half, and has announced long-term goals.

“Dr. Hart is firmly on board now and has set a leadership agenda that we’ve been able to get our donors excited about,” Moore said.

There are currently several dozen capital campaigns underway in Tucson, but none has the size or the scale of the UA's, said Clint Mabie, president of the Community Foundation of Southern Arizona.

But in a national context, the university's campaign is relatively standard.

“It’s obviously a large campaign for our community, but when you put it in university context and I’ll think of my home in Chicago, Northwestern has just launched a $3 billion campaign and University of Chicago a $4 billion campaign at the same time," Mabie said. "So I don’t know what the number will be, but I think it’s a very aggressive and good campaign for the university to have. And the billion dollar is the new university number. There’s billion dollar campaigns all over the United States that are being launched by universities.”

Melinda Burke, president of the alumni association, said she’s trying to increase the alumni giving rate, which hovers low, at below 7 percent. She thinks the new campaign will galvanize former UA students.