University of Iowa forges ahead with new 'Center for Advancement'

Alumni Association-Foundation merger plan approved

The Old Capitol building is shown in Iowa City on Monday, March 30, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)
The Old Capitol building is shown in Iowa City on Monday, March 30, 2015. (Adam Wesley/The Gazette)

The State University of Iowa Foundation has started answering to a new name: “The University of Iowa Center for Advancement.”

Although it will retain its legal foundation name, administrators with the institution’s independent fundraising arm this week confirmed its new “doing-business-as” moniker after its board and the UI Alumni Association board approved a plan to merge the two entities.

Those votes — the association’s last week and the foundation’s on Tuesday — mean the entities officially are moving forward under a “new advancement model.” That model is the fruition of an announcement UI President Bruce Harreld made in March, when he pitched the merger as a way to leverage the organizations’ strengths and expertise and create “more meaningful alumni engagement and increased philanthropic support.”

In justifying dissolution of the independent alumni association and foundation, Harreld cited the overlapping missions of the entities and the opportunities for improved efficiency and unity in serving the university and alumni.

The plan had its critics, however, with some disparaging both the idea and the rollout — accusing Harreld of circumventing association bylaws by announcing the structural change without a board vote. Emails obtained by The Gazette show former association President Jeff Kueter fought the merger and told colleagues he doesn’t agree with it.

The association board’s former chairwoman Clare Kelly in May abruptly resigned — calling her departure best for the organization and “for me personally.”

Under new leadership, the association board in June voted to make a plan to merge with the UI Foundation. Foundation President Lynette Marshall — tasked with heading the new UI Center for Advancement — told The Gazette leadership spent the summer crafting that plan.


This week, Marshall told UI faculty the association and foundation boards approved the plan — which will be submitted to the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office, along with the articles of merger, closer to the official effective date of Jan. 1, according to Dana Larson, executive director of communications and marketing for the new center.

Details of the plan will be made public after the paperwork is submitted, as the boards can still make “mutually-agreed upon changes,” according to Larson.

Effectively, though, Larson said, “We are now officially moving forward as one organization.”

The entity’s legal designation will remain State University of Iowa Foundation because many alumni have bequests in place — including in wills — remembering the organization by name.

As for the 24 Alumni Association employees affected by their entity’s dissolution, Marshall told The Gazette, “No one would lose their job.” Thus, as part of the merger, former association staffers had the option to integrate into the new larger center — which remains independent from the university — or find another job within the UI campus.

As of this week, 12 former association staffers have taken positions in the new center, putting its employee total at 254 — with some remaining openings, according to Larson.

Former association workers were considered UI employees and received UI benefits. Foundation employees were not under UI purview and received foundation-specific benefits. All employees with the new independent Center for Advancement will have foundation benefits.

The new center will be larger than the foundation, as it is “assuming responsibilities for alumni engagement for the entirety of the university,” Marshall told The Gazette.


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Critics have questioned the wisdom of bringing alumni engagement in concert with foundation activities, asking whether all alumni community-type events henceforth will feel like fundraisers.

“We have to prove to them that that won’t be the case,” Marshall said. “I think they’ll see quite quickly that we understand that there are many ways for alumni to come together and have their own experiences as well as ways for them to engage in the life of the university.”

And not all of them involve fundraising, she said, citing UI fandom, attendance at artistic events and performances, mentorship, and community groups across the nation.

“There are many ways that we are enriched through the active engagement of alumni,” Marshall said.

Mergers like this one are not uncommon, Marshall said, noting other universities nationally have taken the same path. Citing an alumni survey last year of more than 500 schools, Marshall said, more than 68 percent reported some type of advancement model.

“So it’s a fairly common organizational structure,” she said. “And it’s quite logical.”

Because, according to Marshall, alumni association and foundation employees share many of the same interests in reaching out to alumni and assessing how they might engage with in their alma mater. This new model will take those efforts further.

“It certainly broadens our mission,” Marshall said. “And we’re delighted with that.”


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