Alumni donate funds to the U

This is the fourth out of five stories about corporate influence at the University. Look for a story Friday on business competition at the University.

by Emily Kaiser

Dr. Jim House, a University alumnus and former faculty member, said that he paid approximately $675 a year to attend the Medical School in the 1960s.

Today’s medical students graduate with approximately $100,000 of debt, House said. He said that alumni should donate money to the University because many students today graduate with debt.

Although corporations donated approximately $30 million to the University Foundation in fiscal year 2004, the majority of the University’s donors are alumni.

Through several foundations at the University, the alumni are making major contributions to the campus, said Martha Douglas, director of communications for the University Foundation.

The two major fund-raising foundations at the University are the University Foundation and the Minnesota Medical Foundation. The medical foundation works primarily with the Medical School.

Both foundations take donations from alumni, corporations and individuals, said Emily Heagle, director of alumni relations and special events for the medical foundation.

According to the University Foundation 2004 Annual Report, almost 82,000 people and corporations donated to the University that year.

Alumni made up 52 percent of the donors, while corporations, foundations and organizations made up 7 percent of donors. The rest of the donations came from other individuals.

During the 2004 fiscal year, $145 million was donated through the foundation. This includes gifts of cash, endowments, future gifts and all gifts committed to the University that year, Douglas said.

Douglas said $51 million of the total donations came from alumni. Corporations donated approximately $30 million, she said.

Douglas said that alumni donate more because they have a personal connection to the University.

“We have a very different kind of relationship with alumni than we might have with corporations,” she said.

Douglas said many of the corporate donations come from companies matching donations of other alumni. Approximately $2 million of last year’s corporate donations came from matching alumni contributions.

Giving more than money

The financial contributions of alumni as well as their time given to advocacy and volunteering are vital parts of the University, Heagle said.

The number of alumni giving back to the University is growing at a rate larger than at any of the other Big Ten universities, said Linda Berg, vice president of marketing and communication for the University Foundation.

The growth rate of alumni giving to the University has increased 7 percent to 8 percent a year during the past four to five years, Berg said. Big Ten universities average 3 percent to 4

percent increases each year, she said.

Berg said alumni specify how they want the University to use money they donate.

“They give to places where they are connected,” she said. “They give to programs they graduated from and places they are interested in.”

When House attended the Medical School at the University, he was given a scholarship as well as loans from the medical foundation.

“We feel that people who have received scholarships for medical school should have a sense of wanting to pay back,” he said.

House devoted his life to the University after graduating and became a faculty member, he said. Now retired, he continues to volunteer his time and donate money to the foundation.

For donors like House, seeing how their money is used is an important part of the foundations.

Berg said the University Foundation uses students to help recruit donors. They make phone calls and appear in foundation pamphlets.

“A real motivator for alumni to give back is to see the impact they have on students’ lives,” she said.

Using the money

Britt Johnson, president of the Council of Graduate Students, said she worries money goes to the wrong places.

“We are always concerned that there are enough teaching assistant positions, scholarships and grants,” she said. “Our main hope is to see as much money as possible be put into that to increase academic excellence.”

Johnson said projects such as the wall outside of the McNamara alumni center are examples of money being specified for the wrong projects.

“Since we don’t have a lot of communication with the people donating, it’s hard to tell them where we need money,” she said. “It’s very frustrating because the Graduate School is looking pretty hard with all of the budget cuts at merging and dropping programs.”

Johnson said many alumni put their money toward scholarships, but the University’s focus has been on the undergraduates.

She said many donors focus on giving to the University’s undergraduate program, but that focus is beginning to change.

“I think it is finally shifting, but it’s a very slow process,” she said.

While some students question why private donations don’t go toward decreasing tuition, Douglas said this is not possible.

“I think donors are aware of the cost of tuition and it’s a motivating factor to donate to scholarships,” she said. “Donors also tell us that they aren’t interested in making gifts for what they think the Legislature should do.”

Alumni are also very involved outside of gift-giving, said Margaret Carlson, chief executive officer at the University Alumni Association.

The Alumni Association is not involved with major fund raising for the University but is a “friend-raising” association, Carlson said.

“Advocacy is very important to us,” Carlson said. “We currently have 27,000 people who are cued up as supporters of the University.”