UI donations continues to show growth

In the midst of a campaign to raise $2.25 billion by 2011, The University brought in enough donations to experience one of the top five fundraising years in its 142-year history — all in spite of the economic downturn and the University admissions scandal.

“Logic doesn’t always play into it,” said Donald Kojich, associate vice president for marketing and communications for the University of Illinois Foundation — the main fundraising engine for the University of Illinois.

The economy affects the University’s money generating ability, but there was a six-month lag between the recession and any noticeable change in donations, Kojich said.

“We have gone against the grain so far this fiscal year,” Kojich said.

The Foundation raised an unofficial total of $220 million during fiscal year 2009, which ended June 30, resulting in a 2.6 percent increase from fiscal year 2008.

Despite these totals, Kojich said alumni are feeling the effects of the recession.

“It affects people in very different manners. Many alums are still donating, just less,” Kojich said, “It’s the difference between a $100 donation and a $50 donation.”

Donors who have made pledges may be helping the University’s fund-generating performance.

“We develop relationships with donors,” Kojich said. “Relationships with donors made 10 years ago are paying off now.”

Ryan Shi, senior in Engineering, said he doesn’t believe the admissions clout scandal will have any lasting effect on University fundraising.

“I’m against admissions bias, but I think it happens everywhere,” Shi said. “Our school isn’t an exception.”

Kojich said although it is a substantial concern, he cannot forecast the effect of the clout scandal on University finances.

“You would need to take a step back a year from now and look at it,” Kojich said, “When alums threatened to stop donating over the Chief’s retirement, it was just a blip on the radar.”

Most of the fundraising money is put into endowments, said Mike Lillich, assistant director in the office for University relations. The endowments invest the money where it is most likely to increase in value over time.

“Virtually all investments everywhere have taken a big hit this year due to the recession,” Lillich said.

Most donations to the University of Illinois Foundation are kept in restricted funds, Kojich said.

Lillich said restricted funds are set aside for specific purposes by the donors and unrestricted funds can be used at the University’s discretion.

“There’s a lot of competition for the unrestricted funds,” Lillich said.

In 2003, the University pledged to raise $2.25 billion by 2011 through a campaign called Brilliant Futures. Donations have totaled $1.76 billion so far, representing 78 percent of the goal.

Kojich said the goal is realistic, but there are only a few things the fundraisers can control and the economy is not one of them.

“The easiest dollar to make is the first and the hardest is the last,” Kojich said. “We still have a long way to go but we are very confident.”