Fund-Raising/Development

Fund-raisers express concerns about their own effectiveness

Survey of advancement officers finds that they visit with potential donors less than they believe they should, and are evaluated on inputs rather than outcomes.

University of Louisville Foundation CFO Put on Leave

The chief financial officer of the University of Louisville Foundation has been placed on paid leave, The Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

The move to place Jason Tomlinson on leave came just after the University of Louisville’s fund-raising arm was slammed in an audit that detailed excessive spending practices, unbudgeted expenses and unrecorded losses to the endowment. J. David Grissom, the chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees, said in a statement that the audit “paints a disturbing picture.”

The terms, length and reasoning behind Tomlinson’s placement on leave have not been specified by the university.

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37 Jobs Will Be Eliminated at University of Wyoming

This week, the University of Wyoming will begin notifying 37 staff members slated to be laid off due to budget cuts, Wyoming Public Media reported. At this time, the layoffs will not apply to any faculty positions.

Last year, the state Legislature announced the university would lose $40 million of its funding. The staff layoffs are a response to the cut, and while it’s unclear how many other jobs may be in jeopardy, 80 percent of the university’s current budget goes toward personnel.

University staff are not sure what to expect from the layoffs, said Rachel Stevens, vice president of the staff senate. They have had no indication which positions or departments are vulnerable.

The layoffs follow a number of other approaches the university took to eliminate positions, including offering incentivized retirement programs to employees. All together, the different options have accounted for 369 job dissolutions.

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WPI's Top Donor Embroiled in Controversy

This item has been updated to correct errors in the original version.

Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s single largest donor is causing a commotion for the Massachusetts university, according to The Boston Globe.

Robert Foisie, 82, has been accused of hiring a hit man to kill his adult son and making charitable gifts to the university from secret overseas accounts, among other things.

Foisie graduated from WPI in 1956 and has since donated $63 million to the institution, making him its No. 1 benefactor. The business school bears his name, as does a scholarship program, and the college is currently constructing a $49 million building called the Foisie Innovation Studio.

After being contacted by the Globe, WPI responded to the allegations against its top donor in a statement, saying that it was “concerning.”

On Friday, President Laurie Leshin sent a campuswide letter about Foisie.

“Upcoming news reports may focus on personal disputes involving the Foisie family …. We don’t know whether any of the allegations are true or false, but I want to assure you that we are taking the situation seriously,” Leshin wrote. “While other universities and nonprofits have faced issues related to donors or major gifts, this is new territory for WPI. We are following this closely and will take action, if necessary, to ensure that we are aligned with best practices.”

Regardless of the outcome of the multiple court cases Foisie is named in (spanning three U.S. states), Leshin said, the innovation studio “is on track and will remain so” as “full funding to complete construction is in place.”

According to the lawsuit his ex-wife, Janet Foisie, is filing against WPI, about $4.5 million in donations to the university may have come from secret accounts set up outside the United States that Robert Foisie illegally kept private during their divorce negotiations.

Janet Foisie also said she suspects that her ex-husband continues to donate secret money to the university and has requested that WPI not spend any more of the family's donations until her court case is closed.

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UVA Tracks Applicants With Wealthy Relatives

For years, the admissions and advancement offices at the University of Virginia have been communicating about applicants with ties to wealthy alumni and donors, The Washington Post found.

Documents obtained by the Post include notes outlining the specific contributions that trace back to prospective students’ families and friends. The documents consist of 164 pages of data and reports since 2008. The so-called UVA watch list sometimes included jotted notes about a major donation (“$500k”) or a recommended decision -- “must be on WL” or “if at all possible A,” referring to “wait list” and “accepted.” The names of the applicants and their relatives were redacted from the documents, and the final admissions decisions were not included.

The 2013 records revealed that one donor was threatening to pull future contributions to the university after an applicant was put on the wait list. “According to people who have talked to him, [the person] is livid about the WL decision and holding future giving in the balance,” an advancement officer wrote in the file. “Best to resolve quickly, if possible.”

A spokesman for the university said fund-raising matters do not weigh on admissions decisions, and that the Office of Advancement receives recommendations for students by alumni and friends from time to time. “Such a practice is not unique to UVA and can be found at similar institutions,” Anthony de Bruyn, the spokesman, told the Post.

He added that the two offices do not coordinate about applicants, but that the advancement office “receives periodic updates to better inform its stewardship efforts.”

Based on the documents the Post received, 59 students applying for fall 2017 were followed by the advancement office.

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Presidents should recognize that a college's success is a group effort (essay)

Roger Martin advises new presidents that, while strong leaders surely make a difference, a college’s success can’t be attributed to any one person.

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Breaking NCAA rules hurts -- and sometimes helps -- institutions' fund-raising efforts

Study finds that high-reputation institutions stand to lose the most when breaking NCAA rules. But some loyal alumni are still there to help even in times of crisis.

At Irvine, questions about professorships funded by a foundation that seeks to change scholarly study of Hinduism

Irvine faculty members and students question idea of professorships endowed by foundation that wants to change scholarly study of Hinduism -- and to influence search process for hires.

Essay asks why there is not an ice bucket equivalent to support higher education

If your college or university is anything like mine – seeking significantly increased resources to enable all the research, student aid, and facilities development that we would like to support – then perhaps you’ve been watching this summer’s social media phenom of the ALS ice bucket challenge with a sense of envy.

I share in the general pleasure that a worthy charity has enormously increased its finances, which may speed up a cure for a terrible disease. On the tally board of life, this profuse bucketing outbreak goes on the plus side for those of us who’d like to believe that people are basically good and inclined to help others in need.

And I also see the cavils: that this movement is a “slacktivist” fad, an easy and lazy manifestation of commitment; that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis is relatively rare, and perhaps less deserving of funding than more prevalent maladies like malaria, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s; and that research funding should be determined by the rational standards of peer review rather than clickbait.

But my own foremost (and self-centered) response to this orgy of charitable energy is: If only I’d thought of it first. We might have a half-dozen new endowed chairs in our department and teaching-free dissertation fellowships for every one of our graduate students. Zadie Smith and Thomas Pynchon would be the featured speakers in our English department lecture series. (Granted, Pynchon’s not very visible on the lecture circuit, but wait until he sees our offer!)

Is our cause sufficiently worthy? Of course it is, and it’s pointless to argue whether higher education or ALS is more deserving: apples and oranges. The suffering of an ALS victim is terrible. The plight of people who cannot maximize their talents, too, is terrible. At my university, where over half our students qualify for Pell Grants and a third are first-generation college students, I see firsthand every day how profoundly meaningful a college education is for those who are marginally able to achieve it, and how fundamentally valuable it would be to extend that margin as much as possible.

So what can we do to connect with the public, to promote our worthy cause, and to set off a chain reaction that will bring along hordes of people jumping onto our bandwagon?

In the meta-analysis of the ice bucket challenge, many have commented on the arbitrariness of charitable giving and of catching the public’s eyes and hearts. But still, is there something we in academe can learn from this? Is this sort of philanthropic enterprise replicable? 

Where can I sign up my department to raise millions of dollars? I suppose I’d include the humanities at large – or even more magnanimously, I’ll extend the invitation to academe generally. (Participants from every campus could sport their university T-shirts to identify the recipient of each donation.)

Nearly as important as the cash, it would be extremely rewarding to find ourselves in the thick of a snowballing social movement, like the ALS campaign, that raises national consciousness and unleashes a contagious enthusiasm about what we do in higher education and how deserving our mission is of support.

Probably the appeal of the ice bucket campaign was lucky and unpredictable; if anyone knew exactly what makes a multimillion-hit meme, I imagine there would be consultants charging multimillion-dollar fees to produce them. (Perhaps there actually are such consultants, though I’m not aware of them.) Is it the snazzy visuals of the unexpected? The counterintuitive willingness to ruin an outfit and suffer – however momentarily – what I imagine would be a very unpleasant experience? (I haven’t taken this challenge myself, though I strongly suspect that I will be invited to do so any minute now.)

Honestly, I don’t have any bright ideas about how exactly to stage an academic iteration: a pie in the face? Banana peel pratfalls? Blind man’s bluff into a vat of tomato sauce? 

Perhaps we in the academy should aspire to something more dignified, but maybe, presuming that the success of ALS merits attention as a “best practice” ripe for our own adaptation, what draws massive crowds of participants is precisely the unexpected contrast between the seriousness of the problem and the oddly undignified escapism of the momentary “challenge.”

Some kind of slapstick gesture seems necessary: something physical and messy and shocking, involving a very intimately personal – bodily – engagement.

As silly as it is, the ALS Association’s challenge represents a wonderful manifestation of human ambition and determination: curing a debilitating disease seems undoable until it’s doable. With enough resolve, and enough money to throw at the problem, and enough human intelligence (which mainly takes the form, I will note, of academic research), it can be done. 

The same goes for a university education. Our scholarship, our teaching, and our community partnerships all contribute to the creation of a better society as measured by myriad qualitative and quantitative metrics. The notion of millions of citizens taking the time and energy to help us out by doing something that affirms our value would vitally reinvigorate our campuses after years of retrenched government funding and skyrocketing student debt. If our campaign were as successful as the ice bucket challenge – and why not dare to dream big? – we could actually mitigate those twin financial catastrophes that have lately taken such a toll on higher education.

I’ve done the hard part here in announcing this challenge to launch our challenge. Now somebody please just send me the YouTube link when you’ve figured out the specifics.
 

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Randy Malamud is Regents’ Professor and chair of the English department at Georgia State University.

 

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Fund-raisers are optimistic about donations to colleges, but poor get poorer, it seems

College fund-raisers are getting more cash and commitments, but the smallest colleges are missing their targets, according to a new survey.

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