U ranks fifth in donations

Donations to the University increased by approximately $6 million in 2004.

Cati Vanden Breul

The University received approximately $245.6 million in donations in 2004, making it fifth on the list of public schools to receive the most donations, according to a report released last week.

The report, conducted annually by the Council for Aid to Education, ranked the University 15th overall out of public and private universities, with donations totaling approximately $24.4 billion for all institutions in the report.

Donations to the University increased by approximately $6 million in 2004, and the school moved up from seventh to fifth place among public schools.

“We’ve made a very conscious effort to provide more opportunities for alumni to give, and they are responding,” said Gerald Fischer, the University Foundation president and chief executive officer.

Fischer said the foundation was successful in working with the University Alumni Association to increase alumni giving, which increased 37.7 percent in 2004. The national increase of alumni donations was only 2 percent, according to the report.

“Many feel indebted and grateful to the University,” Fischer said. “They want to give back and help.”

But alumni are not the only ones who donate money. Following a national trend, donations from those who didn’t go to the University are up too.

Thirty-thousand people without alumni connections to the University donated in 2004, Fischer said.

“They believe that the University is the most important institution in the state of Minnesota and that it has served them in some way,” he said.

Without donations, the University would not accomplish as much as it does, said Keith Olive, a physics professor who received a five-year grant from the McKnight Foundation to study cosmology and high-energy physics.

“There would be an enormous amount that could not be done – donations are essential for the University,” Olive said.

Private grants and endowments give faculty members more freedom and flexibility when conducting research, he said.

“They enable faculty to do more research by hiring graduate students or research associates, and they free them up from always having to try to get money from (federal) grants,” Olive said.

He said private gifts become more important when public funding of universities decreases.

“As public schools see reduced funding in the state, they have to rely more and more on other sources of income,” Olive said.

But Fischer said that when public support decreases so does donor support.

“When the state pulls back, donors pull back. When the state is more generous, donors are more generous,” he said.

Donors do not want to make up for what the state is not providing, Fischer said. Instead, they want to be sure they are adding something to the institution.

“If they worry that their gift will substitute what the state should be paying for, then they feel they are not making a difference but just maintaining the status quo,” he said.

University sophomore Becky Reckelberg said she thought fifth place sounded about right for the University.

“It’s a big school, but there are bigger schools. I’d expect those schools to get more money,” Reckelberg said.

She said donations help students who otherwise might be unable to attend college.

“It gives people an opportunity to get higher education,” Reckelberg said.

Overall donations nationwide were up 3.4 percent in 2004, the report said.