With the stock market fluctuating daily and many people’s portfolios shaken, the University of Wisconsin and other nonprofit organizations are concerned whether money will continue to pour in from private donors.
Even the university’s portfolios are taking a big hit as the endowment fund to date is down 20 percent or at least $300 million since the stock market’s started tumbling this fall, according to UW Foundation President Sandi Wilcox.
The UW Foundation assists the university with its task of raising money to increase its endowments, continue to upgrade and build facilities across campus and provide a large number of need-based scholarships to students.
Wilcox said the number of gifts to the foundation is down 12 percent from last year, but larger gifts from a small few are still coming in.
“It is harder to get big donations,” Wilcox said. “We are pretty much in the major gifts business, and 90 percent of gift dollars come from 5 percent of the donors.”
Director of Alumni and Corporate Relations for the Wisconsin School of Business Alisa Robertson said no matter where individuals work, most major donors are affected by the stock market because they tend to be investors.
“It’s true that many of our generous donors work in the finance industry or for major corporations that have been affected by the financial situation,” Robertson said. “Our donors recognize the importance of investing in higher education, and while they may not have the same amount of discretionary resources available at this time, … alumni and friends will continue to invest in our mission.”
Gary Sandefur, dean of the College of Letters and Science, said he is trying to stay optimistic that supporters of the university will continue to give as much as they can.
According to research, he added, people continue to give even when the stock market is not doing well.
Wilcox said for now, the fundraising strategy is not changing. From a development standpoint, the foundation is trying to ignore the current market conditions and just continue to talk to people about the university.
Robertson said now more than ever, it’s crucial that the Business School engage in a broader set of alumni in the fundraising mission for a “strength-in-numbers mentality.”
For example, if every one of the more than 36,000 business alumni made a gift of just $100 each year, the annual impact would exceed the expendable income from a $70 million endowment — roughly what was attained with the Wisconsin School of Business naming gift last year, said Robertson
“At the business school, approximately 12 percent of our alumni make a gift in any given year,” Robertson said. “We believe that number can be much higher if we make our case more effectively [and] … we are as proactive as private schools.”
Still, Sandefur said fundraising always posses a challenge for Letters and Science because since lots of people are so impressed with the advances in medicine and biotechnology, they are drawn to give more money to those fields.
“It is a challenge for Letters and Science to raise money,” Sandefur said. “Some departments have done really well, and others not quite as well.”
Sandefur said thus far Letters and Science has not felt the negative impacts of the economy, and donations are up 53 percent since last year as of September 30.
Wilcox said December, usually the largest month because of tax-driven giving, will really determine the financial crisis’ effect on fundraising.
“We have been through this before,” Wilcox said. “And we will see where it goes.”