U gets national fundraising award

Of 1,000 eligible institutions, nine received the national honor.

Yelena Kibasova

The University’s fundraising efforts garnered national attention when the school was awarded a 2006 CASE- WealthEngine Award for Sustained Excellence in Educational Fundraising.

The award honors fundraising programs nationally, said Pam Russell, director of public relations for the Counsel for Advancement and Support of Education, an association that helps professionals in fields such as alumni relations, communications, marketing and fundraising.

“This particular award Ö honors those institutions who have won a CASE-WealthEngine Award for Educational Fundraising in three of the past five years,” Russell said.

More than 1,000 institutions were eligible for the award, she said. Nine other institutions, including Stanford, Ohio State and the University of Wisconsin-Madison were honored along with the University.

The award was for gifts received by the University during fiscal 2000 to 2005, said Gerald Fischer, president and chief operating officer of the University Foundation, which coordinates fundraising at the University.

“It’s only about cash in the door and other gifts that are actually received,” he said.

According to the foundation, the University received $1.39 billion in gifts during the award period. Fischer said gifts increased from $194 million in fiscal 2000 to $265 million in 2005.

“The real credit goes to (donors) because they voluntarily make the decision to give up some of their wealth in order to create a better (University),” he said.

Fischer said there are many reasons alumni, organizations and foundations donate, such as a desire to change the world for the better, confidence in the leadership of the University and confidence in the way their money is being handled.

“They want to help create a better world either for individual students, either through the research or they’re just saying thank you for how the University has already changed their lives for the better,” he said.

Rich Kruger, a University alumnus and ExxonMobil vice president, said he donates to the University because “at some point you start to realize it’s more important that you give back for all you’ve received.”

Kruger has personally committed $25,000 for more than five years to a scholarship for students in the Institute of Technology.

ExxonMobil will contribute a 3-to-1 match of his donation, for a total gift of $100,000.

Additionally, the University’s President’s Scholarship Match program will double that amount.

Kruger said ExxonMobil is committed to donating to the University, because it often recruits on campus and employs many University alumni.

“Among the things that (ExxonMobil) prioritizes, education is probably the No. 1 priority we have in terms of outside of the company,” Kruger said.

Besides alumni, 36,000 non-alumni donated last year. Fischer said these might include University sports fans, people who love the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum or owners of pets treated at University veterinary clinics.

For example, according to the University Foundation, an anonymous gift of $10 million was made in 2003 to the arboretum for a new visitor center.

Other typical donors include foundations, organizations and University employees. Last year, about 5,100 faculty and staff members donated to the University, Fischer said.

Donors realize that through teaching, research and service, the University has the capacity to change the world, he said.

“A research university like the University of Minnesota is changing the world all the time through discovery, whether it’s the Honeycrisp apple or finding Ö a potential cure for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, which we’re working on,” Fischer said.

Receiving the award helps build the confidence of current donors and potential donors, but Fischer said it does not mean they will stop working hard.

“As an organization, we don’t rest on our laurels,” he said. “We are not about the past, we are about the future.”