Essential information missing in foundation story

The Daily’s Wednesday article on compensation for the foundation leaders who directed Campaign Minnesota, while by and large accurate, contained some factual errors and omitted valuable information about the University of Minnesota Foundation and its executive compensation.

The foundation is a separate legal entity from the University, and compensation for its executive team is determined by the leadership of its Board of Trustees. When Campaign Minnesota began in 1996, we knew we faced an enormous task that would depend on a lot of people to make it successful. We also believed it would not be successful if we did not have the right leadership throughout the course of the seven-year campaign.

The compensation plan we created in 1999 for these two foundation leaders did not include “bonuses,” as the article said. In fact, the foundation board is philosophically opposed to bonuses or commissions based on the amount of money raised. Instead, we included campaign performance and retention awards that would only be given if the foundation’s leaders stayed throughout the lengthy campaign and if the campaign was successfully completed. National surveys indicate performance-based compensation is a common practice for top development and foundation leaders in higher education. Contrary to the article, the Association of Fundraising Professionals does not oppose performance-based compensation.

The foundation conducts annual market surveys to ensure our compensation is comparable to similar nonprofits, locally and nationally. In fact, the base salary for the foundation’s chief executive officer is in the middle of the Big Ten’s top development leaders.

Campaign Minnesota was a huge success and exceeded all of our expectations. Let’s not forget: It raised $263 million for student scholarships and fellowships, $350 million for faculty, $544 million for new research, $306 million for the University’s outreach efforts and millions more for libraries and new facilities. It was the second most successful fund-raising campaign among all U.S. public universities. More than half of the 220,000 people who gave were new donors to the University. Also noteworthy, the University’s cost to raise $1 – including salaries and compensation of the development team – is only 9 cents, significantly below national averages.

One final point missed in the story was that both of the foundation’s top leaders voluntarily asked not to receive the second half of their campaign performance and retention awards because of the University’s current financial environment, which was the result of state budget cuts. The decision of both of them to do this was significant and speaks to the loyalty and commitment of these outstanding people to the University, its staff and students.

Don Wright is the former executive vice president of Times Mirror and a member and former chairman of the foundation’s Board of Trustees. Lowell Hellervik is CEO of Personnel Decisions International and chairman of the human resources committee of the foundation’s board. Send comments to [email protected]