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UDC plans major fund-raising effort

(Published July 16, 2001)


Staff Writer

Itís no secret that the University of the District of Columbia has had its share of financial difficulties in the past, but UDC may soon be moving toward greater economic self-sufficiency. In the works are plans for UDC to increase its endowment, create an annual fund to raise unrestricted funds and establish a development office to coordinate fundraising activities.

Charles J. Ogletree Jr., chairman of the UDC Board of Trustees, called the upcoming fundraising campaign "the most ambitious effort the university has ever taken to increase fundraising."

The campaign is planned to launch in the coming year, said John Tyson, a partner at Kerry S. Pearson LLC, a business and financial consulting firm that is planning the campaign.

The finer details have yet to be worked out, said Tyson, but the campaign is planned to come on full force through promotions and events the first year, and then be rekindled in following years in order to establish an annual fund.

A development director will be hired in the next couple of months to oversee grant writing and fundraising, said Evelyn Whigham, the universityís marketing director.

Alumni trustee board member Eugene D. Kinlow said that the campaign is supposed to help increase the universityís endowment, which he said "has not been aggressively managed."

"We need a great influx of cash like other universities so we can make up for shortfalls with the interest of the endowment," Kinlow said.

With the advent of the campaign, the nonprofit UDC Foundation will take over fundraising for the university, said Rosemary Cribben, president of the foundationís board of directors.

The UDC Foundation, incorporated in 1978, is the main repository for private donations to the university. According to the foundationís tax records, direct public support to the foundation in 1999 was $192,604. Most of the foundationís revenues go toward student scholarships and other academic programs, said Cribben.

One of the reasons that a fundraiser for UDC was so long in coming, said Cribben, is that fundraising was not in the presidentís job description until the mid-1990s.

Before the university was threatened with losing its accreditation because of a $18.2 million deficit, the university was receiving $77 million from the city in 1991. By 1997, this amount was cut in half as the university tightened its belt by laying off 30 percent of full-time faculty members, 40 percent of the administrative staff, and selling the universityís radio station to CNN. For the first time, the university was forced to compete with other government programs for funding it had always relied on.

Now that the university is on solid financial footing, Cribben said, the university is in a good position to begin asking for money from charitable organizations, corporations, governments and alumni.

"For most universities," Cribben said, "reliance on fund raising is key. But until recently, the stability wasnít there for UDC. You canít go to a corporation and ask for $1 million and not have something to show for it."

D.C. businesses and organizations are expected to make up the majority of the donors, said Kinlow.

"As the university of the capital city, any business worth its salt will want to help out with the campaign," he said.

Even Mayor Anthony A. Williams has been trying to raise funds for UDC for the past couple of months, said Joan Logue-Kinder, the director of communications at the mayorís office. Williamsí fund-raising efforts have not taken place in the mayorís office but at his home, "to be on the safe side" and not cause any conflicts of interest, Logue-Kinder said. The mayorís office currently is being investigated by the D.C. inspector general for alleged fund-raising irregularities involving nonprofit organizations.

Compared to other universitiesí fundraising efforts, UDC has a lot of catching up to do. Georgetown University, which has an endowment of $729 million, is in the middle of the Third Century Campaign, with a goal to raise $1 billion by 2003.

George Washington Universityís Centuries Campaign, launched in February 1996, has already raised $380 million for the support of endowment, current programs, and equipment and facilities.

Trinity Collegeís Capital Campaign, launched in 1997, has raised $8.5 million of its $12 million goal. Trinity has an endowment of $10 million and its goal for its annual fund is $800,000.

Like UDC, Southeastern University does not have a formal system to receive and process donations from alumni and corporations. Beginning in September, Southeastern will establish an annual fund, said Clifford V. Johnson, the director of development.

The University of Virginia, a public university like UDC, has an endowment of $1.8 billion. Adding endowments held by university-related foundations brings the total to over $2.3 billion.

UVA had a recent campaign that allowed the university to move toward greater self-sufficiency, but the university still gets much of its budget from the commonwealth of Virginia. The university used to receive a larger portion of funding from the state, but in the early 1990s, as the state dealt with declining revenues and the rising costs of mandated programs, its share of university support dropped significantly.

For UDC, a fundraising campaign is long overdue, said Kinlow.

"Now that the financial crisis has calmed down, they can move beyond crisis management, and we can take a more proactive look at the university," he said.

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator