Record-breaking fund-raising year eases budget stress

Lindsey Reed

ome programs on the Hill are benefiting from successful fund-raising despite the overall lack of funding in higher education.

A record-breaking fund-raising year at Western is helping to ease the blow from the state’s failure to pass a budget. Western ended the 2003-04 fiscal year with $12.5 million in cash gifts and a combined endowment of $69.2 million.

The fiscal year ended on July 1.

Tom Hiles, vice president for institutional advancement, said most of the cash gifts are included in the endowment figure.

Western’s endowment increased last year by 23 percent from the $56.4 million endowment achieved during the 2002-03 fiscal year.

President Gary Ransdell said he’s impressed by Western’s ability to sustain a good cash flow after a capital campaign.

Western raised $102 million during a 5-year fund-raising campaign that ended in 2003.

“When state funding is stagnant or declining, you have to make up money from other sources,” Ransdell said.

The endowment is the university’s saving account of accumulated donations, Hiles said.

Interest made from the endowment goes toward attracting high quality students and faculty, he said.

Ransdell said several campus programs have been improved because of Western’s cash gifts and endowments.

“We couldn’t possibly have started the new engineering program without private support because state support just wasn’t there,” he said.

Endowments helped the engineering program hire faculty, buy new equipment and fund scholarships. The money also helped the program strengthen its research capacity, Ransdell said.

Western had the third largest reported endowment behind the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky, among all of Kentucky’s public universities, according to the Council for Aid to Education’s 2003 figures.

Western’s endowment ranked second largest among its benchmarks, behind Ball State University. But Western placed first in alumni giving among its benchmark institutions, with 14.8 percent of its alumni giving in 2003.

Alumni giving at Western was also the highest compared to all of Kentucky’s public universities.

The growing number of members in the President’s Circle, which recognizes donors who give $1,000 or more each year, greatly contributed to the fund-raising success, Hiles said.

The President’s Circle had 350 members in 1998 and has grown to 1,585 members today, Hiles said.

Membership in the last fiscal year increased by 10 percent from the previous year, he said.

Total gifts to the university athletics program last year also increased by 6 percent from the previous year, Hiles said.

Athletic director Wood Selig said the gifts contributed toward the $2.4 million in scholarships awarded to about 370 student athletes.

Ransdell said Western is always planning, conducting or finishing a campaign.

Western’s next campaign could be tough because many donors gave large one-time gifts in the last campaign, he said.

Hiles said administrators are in the early stages of planning a new campaign. The needs of the university will be discussed with department heads and deans.

Ransdell said there are usually about three years between capital campaigns.

“There will never be a time when capital campaigning will not be a part of our behavior,” he said.

Reach Lindsey Reed at [email protected]