Higher education

University of Iowa fundraising campaign now $31.7 million above goal

Campus celebrates philanthropy

Buildings and structures across the University of Iowa campus were “tagged” in honor of the university’s fifth annual Phil’s Day on Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016. The event highlights places that have been funded by university philanthropy. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
Buildings and structures across the University of Iowa campus were “tagged” in honor of the university’s fifth annual Phil’s Day on Thursday, Apr. 28, 2016. The event highlights places that have been funded by university philanthropy. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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IOWA CITY — Just weeks after the University of Iowa blew past its eight-year $1.7 billion fundraising goal 10 months ahead of schedule, the UI Foundation this week reported the “aggressive” campaign continues to go strong.

To date, UI alumni and friends have contributed $1,731,690,333 to the campaign launched in 2008 — the same year historic flooding inundated the campus and a recession crippled the economy. That puts the campaign $31.7 million ahead of its goal, with eight months still to go.

And the university — from top executives to alumni to students — celebrated the continued progress this week with the campus’ annual “Phil’s Day.” The day aims to take note of the impact philanthropy has had on the campus, tagging with signs and ribbons all the buildings and programs affected by giving — which is nearly all of them — and leafleting the campus with blank postcards for writing thank you notes to donors.

Sue Beckwith — a UI graduate, physician, and philanthropist for whom the university’s Beckwith Boathouse is named — spoke to a crowd of more than 100 on Thursday about her motivation to give back. She said it wasn’t necessarily part of her plan after completing her undergraduate degree in 1980.

“I transitioned to medical school and residency and fellowship and building a practice, and over the next 15 or 20 years I was so focused. That’s all I did, that’s all I thought about, that’s all I saw, and I didn’t know there was anything outside of that,” she said. “I certainly lost my connection with the University of Iowa. But then the light started to come on.”

Beckwith was invited to serve on a dean’s advisory board with the UI College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and one football Saturday she attended a session allowing professors to showcase their work. She said their enthusiasm was infectious.

“I wanted to be a part of it,” Beckwith said.

So she gave a small gift.

“And the most unexpected and amazing thing happened,” she said. “Even though my gift was so small, I got so much back in return. I had no idea that was going to happen. That I was going to feel like that.”

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It sparked more giving, always toward a cause that meant something to her personally. Even though funding for the boathouse that bears Beckwith’s name started with her $1 million leadership gift, Beckwith said she’s learned the size of the gift isn’t that important.

“We can’t do everything,” she said, “but we can do something.”

In the budget year that ended June 30, 2015, 36,149 donors to the UI Foundation made gifts of $100 or less, which UI Foundation spokeswoman Dana Larson said shows “the importance of all levels of giving.”

Of the more than 194,000 donors who contributed to the fundraising campaign, 61 percent were gifts under $100 and 36 percent were gifts between $100 and $5,000, meaning just 2 percent were between $5,000 and $50,000 and .5 percent were more than $50,000, according to Larson.

Among the donors who have made gifts in the current budget year is new UI President Bruce Harreld. He have $10,000 to the UI College of Education advancement fund on Dec. 11, $5,000 toward the Iowa Ladies Football Academy — benefiting the UI Children’s Hospital — on April 22, and $50 for a membership with the UI Alumni Association on Feb. 17.

And Larson said Harreld’s fundraising efforts have helped push the campaign forward.

“We are thankful for President Harreld’s leadership, which is instrumental to the university’s fundraising efforts,” Larson said. “We are also very thankful for his personal giving.”

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