Setting the record straight on private giving
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Lynette Marshall, UI Foundation president and CEO
Private giving to the University of Iowa has been making headlines recently.
Unfortunately, these headlines have not been about any of the thousands of students, countless programs, or life-changing educational experiences and discoveries our donors have so generously supported in profound ways.
Instead, we’ve faced haphazard and misleading criticism for the way we carry out our mission—a function that continues to increase in importance as public universities are being asked to become more entrepreneurial and self-supporting.
That’s why it’s time to set the record straight.
The reality is that the University of Iowa Foundation routinely is ranked among the most efficient philanthropic organizations in higher education, raising nearly $214 million in cash and future commitments during the last fiscal year with a budget of approximately $20 million.
One way the UI Foundation achieves success year after year is by working with outside experts specializing in identifying prospective supporters. Anyone who has been involved in fundraising at any level knows that such identification is an essential first step in any philanthropic endeavor.
Contrary to a recent headline, none of the vendors working with the foundation keep any of the proceeds from their efforts. All donations go directly to the UI Foundation, and donors can be assured that their gifts are applied according to their wishes. The foundation separately pays its vendors for their contracted services.
Respected firms such as Amergent and Diamond Marketing Solutions help us establish strategies, identify new donors, and strengthen connections with existing donors that will result in significant future support for the UI. Not surprisingly, however, the media dialogue neglected to report the fact that a $188,223 contract with Diamond Marketing Solutions this past year yielded more than $1.84 million in private support for the university.
Furthermore, our partnership with Amergent has resulted in 3,442 new donors for the Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center and 3,273 new donors for the UI Children’s Hospital over the last three years.
Another firm, RuffaloCODY, joined forces with us less than a year ago to manage our student-staffed telemarketing fundraising program. That $396,500 contract already has produced more than $1.03 million in pledged gifts through May 2012, with more than 64 percent of those pledges already having been received by the foundation.
Instead of reporting these facts, news accounts simply have claimed that the university is wrong to spend 23 cents for every dollar raised on operational costs. That figure, too, is grossly incorrect, and appears to have been inflated by carelessly including the nearly $70 million transferred to the University of Iowa each year to support scholarships and programs—the very purpose for which we exist.
Get the facts about the UI Foundation's mission, fund-raising initiatives, and support for university people and programs.
Review UI Foundation annual reports, financial statements, privacy policies, and additional accountability info.
We also have been criticized for our commitment to advancing quality health care in Iowa through what is called “grateful patient” philanthropy, the practice by which a health care organization provides giving opportunities for those who are appreciative of care they’ve received.
This practice is not unique to University of Iowa Health Care. Among major academic medical centers nationwide, no less than the likes of Duke, Johns Hopkins, UCLA, Stanford, Yale, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia—and more than 90 others—engage in this type of philanthropic activity.
Health care providers and patients alike attest to this practice as a completely ethical, acceptable, and essential means of advancing medicine and creating broad access to the best health care possible. Those who experience life-changing health care often seek out ways to pay their experience forward.
At no time is the confidentiality of patient records ever compromised, contrary to what has been irresponsibly alleged. During their first visit, hospital patients are given a privacy notice instructing them how to opt out of all future solicitations related to their health care.
Both the university and the foundation fully honor such privacy considerations. The foundation does not receive any diagnosis or treatment information.
At the same time, the UI Foundation has been accused of not being transparent. While still honoring our firm commitment to the privacy of donor records, the foundation has made its financial and other business information readily available to the public and the media.
We take seriously our obligation to our donors around the world and to the citizens of Iowa in our role as a supporting arm of the state’s largest and most comprehensive university. Our behavior reflects the belief that we should be accountable beyond what even the law prescribes for open records access.
Those of us privileged to work on behalf of public higher education do so because we believe deeply in its transformative power. Our lives have been touched by its mission and we are proud to work with tens of thousands of generous people who want to make the world a better place through educational opportunities and world-class health care.
We will not be derailed by those who recklessly malign our work. Indeed, we rededicate ourselves to the work that allows generosity to change lives.
Lynette Marshall is president and CEO of the University of Iowa Foundation.