UI trustees discuss strategies to increase donations

By Maggie Sullivan

Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget cuts – 31.5 percent – to state funding for the University have loomed over administrators since last year. While legislators in Springfield continue to debate a state budget, University administrators are working to develop strategies to cope with the cuts if they pass.

At the most recent Board of Trustees meeting, trustees discussed a strategy to increase alumni engagement in hopes of improving donations to the University.

“Many of the donors are engaged as annual donors, and they provide annual and regular support,” said Jim Moore, Jr., president of University of Illinois Foundation.

Moore said there are about 157,000 gift transactions made to the University every year across the three campuses. However, he said donors typically restrict how the University can spend the money.

“Nintey-eight percent of the dollars we raise and secure are restricted, that is, the donors tell us how to spend them,” Moore said. “Because of that, you can’t fundraise your way out of a budget crisis.”

While Moore said engaging donors would not solve the budget crisis, he does believe there are strategies the University could employ to help maximize donations. Moore said he thinks it is important for the University’s Alumni Association to work with donors to connect their interests to the best financial uses for the University.

“We need to spend more time working with our donors to connect what they’re passionate about with areas of strength and excellence that occur on our campus,” Moore said.

Moore said he wants to work collaboratively with the Alumni Association in fundraising and alumni engagement efforts.

“We need to work more closely with the Alumni Association and community networks to understand what’s important to them,” Moore said.

Vanessa Faurie, vice president of Corporate Communications for the University of Illinois Alumni Association, said the importance of alumni engagement is vital to the University — both in terms of finance and experience for current students.

“The more engaged alumni are, the more they are invested in making sure the University maintains its excellence and its service to students, the state, and the world,” Faurie said.

Moore said the Urbana campus specifically, has been engaging in new strategies to reach out to alumni and help rekindle their love for their alma mater. Former Chancellor Phyllis Wise began a strategic branding project, Moore said, which the University of Illinois Foundation will continue.

Chad Ruback, vice president for Marketing and Donor Relations at the University of Illinois Foundation, said alumni engagement is an important pillar of the University’s strategic plan.

“The scope of the project has really been to help better understand how to talk about the University, and how to position the University around the many areas of excellence that exist on our campus,” Moore said. “That work is continuing; we will be working with the University to build on that work as we position future fundraising campaigns.”

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