Dear Alumni and Friends,
My introduction to fundraising at CU began when I was a student in the early 1960s. Professor Warren “Doc” Thompson gave me a list of five alumni of the geology program and asked me to call them and ask for contributions to the geology fund. I don’t remember the result, but I do remember the lesson about the importance of connecting donors with something at the university they are passionate about – in that case, geology and helping students.
That lesson is every bit as important more than five decades later as we launch Essential CU, a $4 billion fundraising campaign we announced in January aimed at expanding student opportunity and access, enhancing research and discovery, attracting and retaining top talent and transforming health care. The campaign is about matching donors with what they are passionate about at the university, with the result of advancing society and serving the public good.
I have witnessed plenty of things our donors are passionate about, whether supporting students, medical advances, attracting top talent, fostering innovation or improving our communities, state, nation or world. Philanthropy is a key element of CU’s academic quality, research capacity and financial stability. We see private support as an investment because we believe contributions to the university offer a clear return that makes our world a better place.
When we invest in students the return is a highly skilled workforce, productive citizens and the leaders of tomorrow. Investing in research leads to discovery and innovation that improves and saves lives; research also helps us address some of society’s most vexing problems, whether it’s climate change or Alzheimer’s disease. Investing in top talent means the best people educate our students and engage in crucial research.
The effort is off to a good start. We have raised some $2 billion in the quiet phase of the campaign, which began in late 2013. It’s the most ambitious fundraising campaign in university history, but we’re well-positioned to succeed. We have set annual fundraising records in every year over the past decade, including $440.4 million last fiscal year (for perspective, we raised $135 million a decade ago).
It’s important to note that contributions to CU do not supplant our need for state funding, nor can we redirect donations. Donors designate where they want their investments to go, whether to scholarships, research programs or thousands of possibilities in between. We work hard to keep tuition costs in check, but a philanthropic campaign does not affect tuition rates, except when scholarship donations support individual students.
What contributions do is add value to our efforts and activities. Philanthropy helps us create a Colorado and nation that are economically, physically and culturally healthy. Part of the reason CU is among the top universities in the world is the partnership we have had with our donors over the years.
After my calls as a geology graduate student, I got involved in CU’s first fundraising campaign in 1990 as a volunteer and donor. The goal was $200 million, which was ambitious considering the university raised $25 million the prior year. The campaign eventually raised $272 million. It was followed by the $1 billion Beyond Boundaries campaign that concluded in 2004 and the $1.5 billion Creating Futures campaign that surpassed its goal in 2013. My wife Marcy and I co-chaired the latter two efforts.
I’m set to retire from CU in July, so the Essential CU campaign will outlast my time as president. But I intend to be involved, as I have been for decades, as a donor. I’m a strong believer in leading by example, and I would invite you to join me. You can donate here. I’m sure we have something at the university you are passionate about, and I’m equally sure you will see a substantial return on your investment.
Doc Thompson would marvel at how far private support has come at CU from the days of geology students calling alumni to ask for donations. But he wouldn’t be at all surprised that people are still pursuing their passion by investing in our university.
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