Realignment of CU’s fundraising organization set to begin

By Staff

The University of Colorado is taking another step in an ongoing process of increasing revenue streams it has some control over in light of one it has little influence on, declines in state funding.

CU President Bruce Benson this week announced recommendations from a months-long assessment of the university’s fundraising and advancement operations conducted by Grenzebach, Glier and Associates (GG+A), a leading advancement and philanthropic services firm.

Its primary recommendation is to realign the fundraising organizational structure to allow for more engagement and accountability in operations. Doing so will require moving campus-based fundraisers and their support staff, now CU Foundation employees, to the university, where they will become CU employees. The move will provide clear and direct reporting lines from fundraisers to academic leadership, chancellors and the president, leading to greater accountability and results, Benson said. The first phase of the transition is expected to be complete by July 1.

“We’ve got to raise the bar in our efforts to attract private support for CU,” he said. “We’ve shown strong fundraising results in recent years, but I believe we can and will do significantly better.”

The impetus for the move is Colorado’s ranking of 48th nationally in state funding per student. CU is expected to receive $150 million from the state in the coming fiscal year, which includes a modest increase, the first in five years. Yet projections show an ongoing downward trend in state funding. In 2008, CU received $229 million. Benson said that when inflation and enrollment growth are factored in, CU should be receiving about $350 million annually. A study conducted by the University of Denver last year, the national Race to the Bottom report and CU’s internal analysis all predict the state could run out of funding for higher education within a decade.

“The state doesn’t have the money to help us, so we have to do what we can to help ourselves so we can continue to deliver on our educational and research missions,” he said.

Enhancements to fundraising join a series of moves the university has made in recent years to increase revenues and cut costs, including securing legislation to allow for better business practices, increasing the number of international students, strategically reducing staff and services, realizing internal efficiencies, and furthering outreach and engagement efforts with key constituents. Additionally, many faculty are teaching and advising more for minimal additional compensation and staff are taking on more, reducing administrative costs to 44 percent below peer averages. CU is also beginning the process of improving the administration of its research enterprise and diversifying research partners beyond federal agencies.

Benson said efforts to improve fundraising are another step in the process, with the goal to significantly increase the private support it attracts. Last year, the university received a record $221 million in private support and is some $1.4 billion toward reaching the $1.5 billion goal of its Creating Futures fundraising campaign. Yet it still lags behind national peers such as the University of California-Berkeley ($405 million), UCLA ($344 million), Ohio State University ($334 million) and the University of Washington ($310 million), all of which employ the model CU is moving toward.

Another recommendation from the GG+A study is to hire an executive vice president for advancement who will oversee and coordinate efforts across the CU system. A search for the position, which will report to the president, is under way. Additionally, transition teams at the university and the CU Foundation are working out details of the new structure.

The planned moves have garnered strong endorsement from key groups, Benson said, including the CU Board of Regents, the CU Foundation Board of Directors and Board of Trustees, campus chancellors, leadership of the CU Foundation, and the president’s executive staff.

“We fully expect this change will allow us to take fundraising at CU to the next level so we can continue to provide a high-quality academic experience to our students, conduct research that improves lives and advances society, and contribute to Colorado and the nation,” he said.