UI fundraising tops $200 million for 5th straight year

UPDATED 10:15 p.m. Friday

URBANA — Public research universities can't survive without private giving, University of Illinois Chancellor Phyllis Wise told donors Friday as the UI announced more than $200 million in gifts for the fifth consecutive year.

Wrapping up the $2.43 billion Brilliant Futures fundraising campaign, the UI brought in $210.6 million from donors in cash, pledges, annuities or life income gifts and estate distributions during the fiscal year that ended June 30, the UI Foundation announced today.

The total was down slightly from recent years. The UI raised $218 million in fiscal 2011; $213 million in fiscal 2010; a record $224 million in fiscal 2009, and $215 million in fiscal 2008.

About 500 foundation members gathered at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts for the 77th annual meeting of the organization the UI's fundraising arm.

Walt Knorr, UI chief financial officer and treasurer of the foundation, said the gifts provide a "margin of excellence" for the UI.

"Dwindling state support has become a certainty and is one of the key reasons private giving is so essential to the future of the university," Knorr said.

Wise said public research universities depend on the state, tuition, grants, contracts, commercialization and philanthropy for income.

"We are in the middle of truly tumultuous times in higher education," Wise said. "The state has been in an unrelenting slope downward in terms of its support for higher education. We have raised tuition aggressively over the last 10 years, and we cannot afford to do that any longer if we are to provide access to excellence for students" regardless of ability to pay, she said.

Research budgets aren't likely to continue increasing as they did in the 1990s, and commercialization is hit and miss, she said.

"What does that leave? It leaves philanthropy," Wise said. "We are a public university and we will proudly wear that banner," but the UI can't survive without private giving, she said.

Foundation President Sidney Micek said the university had a great deal of momentum coming off Brilliant Futures, which began in 2003 and officially ended last December.

"We have alumni, donors and friends all over the country — if not the world — who support this superb university," Micek said in remarks prepared for the announcement. He plans to step down at the end of December but will stay on in a part-time role.

Brilliant Futures surpassed its $2.25 billion fundraising goal by $180 million, Micek said. The Urbana-Champaign campus raised $1.67 billion, well above its $1.5 billion goal.

Of nearly 142,000 gifts from more than 75,500 donors in fiscal 2012, 27 percent were unrestricted ($56.4 million); 24 percent went to research ($51.5 million); 12 percent to buildings and other facilities ($26.2 million); 11 percent to student support ($23.1 million); 10 percent to academic programs ($21 million); 7 percent to public service ($15.5 million); 6 percent to faculty support ($11.6 million); and 3 percent to other uses ($5.3 million).

New gifts, grants and pledges combined with deferred commitments totaled almost $311 million, only the second year they have exceeded $300 million and a 23 percent increase over last year. Most of that new business came from non-alumni and foundations, Knorr said.

The UI's active endowment stood at $1.65 billion as of June 30, up 3 percent from a year ago. Deferred commitments totaled about $874 million, for a total endowment of $2.52 billion.

Micek also said the Access Illinois Presidential Scholarship Initiative — a three-year effort announced in June 2011 to raise at least $100 million for scholarships, fellowships and other forms of student support — has already raised $46.8 million. The goal may be increased because of the need for student financial support, he said.

Bob Easter, speaking at his first foundation meeting as UI president, said he has seen the impact of private gifts on students, faculty and the campus as a whole during his nearly 40 years at the university.

"Your generosity has enabled us to do things that just wouldn't have been possible" otherwise, he said.

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