| 03.18.2018

Fundraising for the future — Vice president for university advancement discusses importance of philanthropy, alumni relations


Philanthropy and fundraising play a large role in improving the University of Idaho and each year the advancement unit sets a goal for how much money they want to raise.

At Tuesday’s Faculty Senate meeting, Vice President for University Advancement Mary Kay McFadden said UI’s progress focuses primarily on donations that help provide resources.

“Most often when we are talking about advancement we are talking about fundraising and providing resources, important resources, for the university,” McFadden said.

University Advancement is a service unit of UI that works to provide multiple resources, including alumni talent and expertise.

The collective goal as an advancement unit, McFadden said, is to raise $31 million for the university this year through fundraising and philanthropy.

The advancement unit plans to reach that number by dividing the goal into different areas of the university, McFadden said.

The fundraising progress report showed the university has raised 64 percent of this year’s goal so far, McFadden said.

“This shows that we are ahead of schedule, which is good news because we want to finish strong and actually surpass our goal,” McFadden said.

The advancement unit takes into account who donates to the university and analyzes where the money comes from. McFadden said alumni participation is an important benchmark for universities when it comes to raising money.

“We always believe that a donor, an alum, giving back to the university is really an endorsement of their experience here,” McFadden said. “And that it’s an example of their connection to the university.”

With alumni participation sitting at 5.9 percent, the year-end goal is to reach 10 percent, McFadden said, holding UI slightly above the average level of other land-grant universities.

The ultimate goal is to raise the alumni participation number to 20 percent, McFadden said.

The university’s structure is a partially decentralized program, McFadden said, meaning that each college has its own advancement unit. The colleges also have their own development officer and in many cases, their own alumni relations office.

“The primary purpose of those offices are alumni relations and fundraising for the programs,” McFadden said.

With a job that helps to improve the university, McFadden said she takes into account the priorities of the institution and combines those with the philanthropic priority.

The idea of philanthropy, McFadden said, comes from taking what the donor is passionate about and coordinating it with what the university needs.

“We are dealing with the very happy idea of philanthropy here,” McFadden said. “The very rich idea of philanthropy and generosity of folks.”

Faculty play an important role in motivating philanthropy, McFadden said. The most important thing a faculty member can do is continue to work in the classroom and provide education for students.

“That is what (alumni) remember,” McFadden said. “That is what motivates them eventually to give back to their alma mater.”

Savannah Cardon can be reached at arg-news@uidaho.edu or on Twitter @savannahlcardon

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