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Despite recession, CU posts solid fundraising results

In time of increasing need, dollars down but donors up

University of Colorado FoundationMore than 50,000 donors made contributions toward CU people, places, and programs during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2009-more than in any other year in CU's 133-year history.

Gifts for the 2008-09 year totaled $134.5 million: $101.3 million given through the CU Foundation, the university's fundraising arm, and $33.2 million given directly to the university, according to preliminary unaudited numbers provided by university and foundation administrators. It ranked as the second best year in CU history for dollars raised.

Because of donors to CU's campuses:
  • Law students will better connect classroom schooling with real-world clients in need thanks to a $5 million gift by Richard F. and Rick E. Schaden to the University of Colorado at Boulder School of Law.

  • New vaccine development will be accelerated thanks to a $2 million gift by CU alumni Jack and Jeannie Thompson to help fund a new Biotechnology Building at CU-Boulder.

  • Scholarships will make college possible for students in need thanks to an anonymous $5.5 million gift to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs - UCCS's largest, leading to an 83.4 percent year-over-year rise in gifts to the campus.

  • Rural citizens statewide will receive better health care thanks to a $3 million grant by Kaiser Permanente to UC Denver's Anschutz Medical Campus.

  • A new UC Denver Business School building will get a boost thanks to EnCana's $1 million gift toward the 1475 Lawrence Court building on the Downtown Denver campus.
"Our donors provide essential support that helps CU provide outstanding education, research, and services to the citizens and communities of Colorado and beyond," said CU President Bruce D. Benson. "Private support will be increasingly essential in the coming years as we deal with fiscal challenges in other revenue streams, and aim not merely to survive but to excel."

However, while fundraising dollars add value to CU, Benson stressed that donors target gifts toward specific areas of interest, and that support for general operating expenses such as salaries, utilities and technology remains a great need for the university.

The total dollar amount of gifts raised by the CU Foundation was down 18 percent from the record-breaking 2007-08 fiscal year (when CU raised more than $162.5 million), reflecting the pervasive economic difficulties that accelerated early last fall, and have affected university support everywhere.

Despite the decline, the university's fundraising for fiscal year 2009 was higher than all of the years prior to the record-setting 2007-08 period. CU saw a sharp drop in gifts at the highest ($10 million+) level, as steep equity-market declines put unprecedented pressure on large-gift sources. While 2008 saw three donors give more than $10 million each, no such gifts were received in 2009. Excluding such donations, dollars raised for CU in 2008-09 exceed last year's total by more than 14 percent.

Donor activity was up, especially among alumni. This year's total of 25,167 alumni donors represents year-over-year increases for all four CU campuses, and is CU's greatest alumni-donor total by a margin of 9.8 percent.

CU Foundation Chief Investment Officer Chris Bittman
CU Foundation Chief Investment Officer Chris Bittman

"We are impressed and humbled by the steadfast support of our friends," said CU Foundation President and CEO Wayne Hutchens. "With many traditional CU funding sources likely to be squeezed for years to come, next year will be pivotal for attracting more private support, and demonstrating how this support leads to positive change."

The CU Foundation aims to increase fundraising next year to reduce the revenue gap and keep tuition affordable. Priority projects for which private support will be targeted include scholarships, fellowships, and faculty chairs on all CU campuses.

Other projects the foundation plans to focus on include a Systems Biotechnology Building, an interdisciplinary Energy Initiative, and a Center for Community at CU-Boulder; a rural health Initiative at the Anschutz Medical Campus; buildings for the Business School and College of Architecture and Planning at the University of Colorado Denver Downtown Campus; and completion of a new events center, Institute for Bioenergetics, and Center for Aging at UCCS.

The university endowment, managed by the CU Foundation, saw silver linings despite a challenging year. As of June 30, 2009, the value of the CU endowment was $590.1 million, down 18 percent from 2008. By comparison, the S&P 500 declined 26.2 percent during the same period. The foundation's investment-management performance (-17.7 percent for the year) surpassed the broad equity markets as well as foundation-specific benchmarks for the fifth consecutive year. A $100 investment in CU's endowment on Sept. 30, 2004, would be worth $128 today, compared with $89 if invested in the S&P 500.

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