UH System exceeds fund-raising goal
As the 2007 fiscal year draws to a close today, University Advancement said this was the most successful fund-raising year for the UH System in over a decade.
"We had a tremendous year – our best year," Vice Chancellor and Vice President of University Advancement Michael Rierson said.
University Development reported the UH System exceeded its fund-raising goal for this fiscal year by $7 million for a total of more than $51 million, $46 million of which was raised for the main campus, though final numbers will not be available until next week.
Rierson credits the year’s success to improved planning and communication, both between UH and potential donors and within the University itself.
By developing business plans and fund-raising goals within individual departments and with the participation of faculty and administration, he said, fundraising dollars are spent more efficiently and are more readily explained to donors and potential contributors.
"The job is not just to raise more money, it’s to raise the right money," Rierson said.
Iska Wire, University Libraries director of development, said implementing the business planning procedure has allowed departments to collaborate on common goals and develop ties to projects of interest to specific corporations and foundations.
For instance, she said, if one department decides to offer a new major, it can work with UH Libraries to raise funds for research materials to meet the needs of the program.
As far as the libraries are concerned, Wire said, the focus has been on purchasing furniture and shelving for the M.D. Anderson Memorial Library as well as seeking more endowments.
Endowments are donations that are placed in an interest-earning account. Then part of that interest is spent in a specific area. The remainder, Wire said, provides a stable, reliable source of income that continues to accrue over time.
Wendy Adair, associate vice chancellor and vice president of Public Affairs, said the majority of this year’s fund raising was for endowments, capital funding and direct academic support.
The master plan developed by the UH System Board of Regents contributed to more awareness and a better perception of the University, Rierson said, and accounts for an expected 600 percent increase in capital gifts, up to $9 million for the fiscal year of 2007 compared to $1.5 million for 2006.
"If donors see what it is that is your vision, if they see something that inspires them, they will buy in," Rierson said. "You have to be clear about what the money is accomplishing."
In order to foster communication with donors, Rierson established a four-member stewardship office that provides reports for donors. The reports detail where and how donations and gifts are being used.
He also said that there has been a visible increase in positive media coverage of UH with a new alumni magazine and online newsletter. In addition, there are plans to unveil a new Web site by the end of September.
University Librarian Dean Dana Rooks and her staff successfully raised $20 million in donations and gifts for the refurbishment of M.D. Anderson Memorial Library over three-and-a-half years starting in 2000. She agrees with Rierson’s assertion that the story of UH’s local impact is spreading.
"The increased interest I think is a direct result of the exciting things that are happening at the University of Houston," she said. "You build relationships with people. You help them understand your vision and find that part of the vision that touches them.
In an interview with the Daily Cougar in mid-August, Regent Leroy Hermes said Rierson’s strategies have greatly contributed to the fundraising efforts.
"We have exceeded $50 million in private fund raising at the University of Houston (System) this year, and that’s happened because the University of Houston hired an experienced Vice President of University of Houston Advancement," he said. "It’s really beginning to show in the area of private fundraising for the University, and I think that will get better and better every year."
Rierson joined UH about two years ago and bringing fund raising experience from Duke University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Miami and University of South Florida.
The last time the System raised over $50 million was during the last capital campaign in 1992, and that campaign’s success was mainly due to several large donations, Rierson said.
This year’s fund raising, however, has consisted of over 25,000 separate gifts, the largest of which is a $3 million commitment by Regent Michael Cemo for the construction of Michael J. Cemo Hall, a classroom and lecture space for the Bauer College of Business.
Other large contributions went to the Graduate College of Social Work, the UH Writing Center, and the Institute for Biomedical Information Sciences.
The System is in the "quiet phase" of planning for the next capital campaign, though University Advancement plans to wait until a new president and system chancellor is appointed and has had a chance to provide input on the campaign, Rierson said.
Whereas current fund raising efforts focus on specific projects, Adair said, the capital campaign will advocate a broader vision of UH’s future.
"You’re asking people to do things at a higher level to meet some longer-term goals," she said. "It generates a lot of energy and excitement, and from a public relations perspective, it also gives you a boost in how people are viewing the institution because they’re talking about it a lot."
Rierson said this year was a big step in increasing outside funding for the University.
"We’re happy with the direction we’re going," Rierson said. "I think UH is moving toward a healthy, exciting and lucrative fundraising program that is consistent."