Campaign stays afloat with large donations

by Erin Ghere

Out of 140,000 donors thus far, the University’s Campaign Minnesota has benefitted the most from a few.
One hundred and fifty-five donors, or about 2 percent, have supplied 92 percent of the fund raising thus far. University officials hope to end the campaign in mid-2003 with $1.3 billion.
Donations ranging from pocket change to $16 million have come in, said Gerald Fischer, president of the University of Minnesota Foundation, the University’s fund-raising body.
Normally, about 20 percent of the donors account for about 80 percent of the money, but times have changed, he said.
“There has been an enormous wealth creation going back to 1982,” he explained. “Just look at the U.S. stock market.”
The result is fewer donors giving larger gifts.
The University kicked off Campaign Minnesota in October.
Two of the largest gifts the campaign has received came last winter. In mid-December, the McKnight Foundation gave $15 million to create 15 endowed faculty positions. And in February, the family of the late C. Walton Lillehei — a former University doctor and Medical School professor — gave $16 million to establish the Lillehei Heart Institute.
Both of these large donations helped the University reach the halfway point in their campaign, raising more than $811 million by April 30.
“The most important measures of excellence at the University are those that demonstrate the University’s ability to transform lives,” University President Mark Yudof said, according to the campaign Web site.
“In many cases, private giving is the catalyst that makes this transformation possible,” he said.
The University is still looking for donations of all sizes to reach its enormous goal. Officials also want to broaden the base of supporters and challenge past supporters to give more.
“We’re encouraging people to give gifts of 1 percent of their net worth, for example, by adding the University to their will as a beneficiary,” Fischer explained. “We have been focusing a lot on increasing our giving from alumni and non-alumni.”

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Erin Ghere welcomes comments at [email protected]