President Bruce Benson's newsletter

August 2014

Dear Friends and Alumni,

Each July, soon after CU's fiscal year closes, we announce our annual fundraising total. A few weeks ago we noted CU had set a record in raising private support, $298.4 million. One thing that highlights is how we are seeing positive results from the restructuring of our fundraising operations, which began more than a year ago.

The impressive total also speaks in many ways to what our university is about: the promise of our students and the excellence of our faculty teachers and researchers, who change and improve lives. It is also emblematic of the confidence our donors have in the university, its people and programs. I'll elaborate in a moment, but also want to touch on the business of fundraising.

It's important to recognize that philanthropy is a market that behaves like any other market, with many factors having an impact. The state of the economy obviously has a tremendous influence, as do the vagaries of the stock market. The perceptions and moods of donors have a significant bearing on fundraising success, just as they do with most investments.

Many intertwined factors deeply ingrained in CU influence philanthropy: the university's reputation, the research profile of faculty, alumni engagement, how we tell our stories to our constituents. Perhaps most important is the vision of the university and the ways it is conveyed. Our vision, quite simply, is to be one of the world's best universities. Private support has an enormous impact on achieving that.

Given all those factors, a number in a news release does not begin to relate what private support means to CU. As is often the case, a collection of stories reveals philanthropy's true impact.

It helps make the dream of college a reality. Karen and Jim Possehl recognized the challenges facing women in difficult circumstances who know a college education is a ticket to a better life but can't afford to make it happen. They created the Karen Possehl Women's Endowment on our Colorado Springs campus in 1998 to provide scholarship support, mentorship, peer counseling and even childcare. To date, the program has made success in college a reality for nearly 140 women.

It improves lives through research. Edna Leeman received treatment for ovarian cancer at CU in the 1980s, which extended her life by decades. By the time she passed away in 2012, she had donated a modest $275 to the CU Cancer Center, which had also treated her husband. Yet her legacy far exceeds her contributions during her life, thanks to a $1.6 million estate gift she provided for Cancer Center researchers studying the dreaded disease.

It allows individuals to give back to an enterprise that has given much to them. Doug and Mary Ann Looney met in a freshman English class on the Boulder campus and attribute much of their success in life to the education they received at CU, she in elementary education and he in journalism. They have contributed to those programs, as well as more than a dozen others. As Doug, who had a long career writing for Sports Illustrated, put it in his inimitable way, "We'd have to be total ingrates not to want to give a few dollars to a place that gave us, in a word, everything."

These are among the thousands of CU stories that show the "why" and the "what for" of philanthropy. And they are always far more compelling, and more important, than the "how much."

For feedback, contact


Bruce Benson


  • August, What for, not how much
  • July, The bogeyman in the basement
  • May, Private gain or public good?
  • April, Funding outlook: sunny today, stormy tomorrow
  • March, Expertise and passion
  • February, Soaring in southern Colorado
  • January, It all starts with reputation



  • December, The threat from legal pot
  • November, Good news comes in threes
  • October, CU labs: a magnificent microcosm
  • September, Is college worth it?
  • August, A lasting legacy and a record set
  • July, Getting there from here
  • June, Serving those who served
  • May, Indelible impact
  • April, Bruce on Bruce
  • March, Perception and reality
  • February,Leading leaders


  • December, We're most proud of this CU uniform
  • November, From python hearts to Tebow's cleats
  • October, We want you
  • September, How to succeed at college and save $20,000
  • August, Reputation drives results
  • July, Teaching an old president new tricks
  • June, A message from the president
  • April, CU announces $1.5 billion Creating Futures campaign
  • February