More donors, less cash pledged to university

Despite an increase in donors, the university has made less money than FY 2011, so far. A university strategy to build Temple’s financial-donor base has boosted the number of donations given to the university this fiscal

Illustration Lucas Ballasy

Despite an increase in donors, the university has made less money than FY 2011, so far.

A university strategy to build Temple’s financial-donor base has boosted the number of donations given to the university this fiscal year, in comparison to last year, but in smaller amounts.

A recent year-to-date report on Temple’s fundraising progress, produced by the Board of Trustees Alumni Relations and Development Committee, showed this year’s earnings to date to be $3.5 million, less than half of what was raised at this point last year.

At this point in the cycle, fiscal year 2011 yielded more than $8.5 million in gifts and pledges.

However, fiscal year 2012 has had 6,230 donors pledge, significantly larger than the 5,104 pledges in 2011.

David Unruh, senior vice president for Institutional Advancement, said this is because of several large donations to the university in the last fiscal year, as well as new efforts on the part of his team to build its donor base. As of press time, the total dollars amount has risen to approximately $4.5 million, Unruh said.

“Institutional advancement is the team at Temple that’s responsible for alumni relations, for fundraising and for communication with alumni,” Unruh said.

Unruh said the difference between the last and current fiscal year donation amounts is primarily due to a small number of very large gifts that came in early last year.

“For example, we received an estate commitment for the School of Dentistry that was about [$1.5 million] that, quite frankly, we had not been aware of. It was from an alumnus from 1923 who had passed away many, many years ago and the estate had gone through several generations before finally coming to Temple,” Unruh said.

Pallavi Chitturi, associate professor of statistics and director of the Center for Statistical Analysis, said a university seeing a couple of very large amounts isn’t uncommon.

“It just so happened that [in fiscal 2011], they got a couple of very large donations but that may be atypical,” Chitturi said. “You may not expect to see those big numbers or those large gifts every year. So 2012 may be a more typical year where you have more donors, but donors are making small donations.”

Unruh said that his team is seeking several large donations from individuals and foundations that may boost the total dollar amount and bring this fiscal year closer to what was raised last year.

“Large giving amounts, typically those that are even $25,000, are really the result of a relationship with a particular individual or a foundation or corporation and take time to manifest,” Unruh said. “So we have a group of people including myself who are regularly out meeting with alumni, meeting with foundations, inviting them to make a more significant investment in the university for particular purposes.”

Unruh’s team solicits foundations for gifts to support research and new initiatives at Temple, he said.

“Those kinds of gifts take time to come to fruition and happen less regularly that the kind of annual gifts–the $1,000, $2,500 gifts–that are really the lifeblood of every institution’s fundraising activity and are really important but obviously don’t change the total dollars raised as dramatically as a gift of $1 million or more,” Unruh said.

The largest gift so far this year is $475,000, which Unruh said is great to receive, but, without seven-figure donations, the goal for the year might not be reached.

“We closed last year at about $50 million,” Unruh said. “Our goal this year is $58 million so we’re actually not that far along in comparison to the actual goal for the year.”

Unruh and Chitturi said that the time of year has an effect on fundraising numbers.

“The time of year is a factor, so you might see donations and pledges going up at the end of the year due to tax reasons,” Chitturi said. “So you might see around Christmas time, people make large donations.”

Unruh said Temple is in the middle of processing nearly 3,000 gifts, adding that they will drive up the donor numbers and have some impact on the aggregate dollar amount.

Chitturi also cited the country’s economic troubles as a possible cause of low fundraising numbers.

“I think the economy does play a role,” Chitturi said. “In general, charitable giving does go down when the economy is not doing well.”

Despite significantly lower dollar amounts, this year has yielded more than 1,000 more donors than last year.

Unruh said this is due to the efforts of his office to reach out to alumni and others.

“We’re actually in the midst of the busiest time of year for the Temple Fund,” Unruh said. “We send mail, email, phone calls out to all of our alumni, and we segment that by school and department.”

“So we have both a broad appeal to give to Temple for a variety of reasons and then we have more school—specific appeals that we hope will attract donors whose primary allegiance might be to a particular school or program they experienced at Temple,” Unruh added.

During Homecoming weekend, the Institutional Advancement team organized several events for visiting alumni, including an Alumni Tailgate before the football game on Oct. 15.

Unruh said the university saw a record-setting 2,000 alumni who visited for the event.

“We do a lot of those kinds of things to make sure that alumni, parents and others understand what Temple is like today and the impact their giving has in ensuring that students have the best and highest quality of experience,” he said.

The success of these efforts can be seen in the boosted donor numbers, Unruh said.

“I’m actually pleased to share that, despite the national trend of declining donor numbers, we are seeing an increase in our donor numbers,” Unruh said. “Temple has rebounded to its 2008 numbers in terms of actual donors.”

Unruh credited this trend to his team’s increased effort to reach out to donors in new ways, such as identifying support opportunities in student financial aid, scholarships and research.

The team focuses on showing donors the actual results of their giving as a way to encourage donations, Unruh said.

“[We want to make] sure we’re telling the story of the impact that someone’s gift has rather than simply asking them to make a gift for the sake of making a gift,” Unruh said. “The good news is that we are seeing a nice increase in the number of donors who are responding to the appeal.”

Chitturi said that while the increased donors may not yield significantly higher dollar amounts, it could be beneficial in the future.

“The fact that we have a larger number of donors is a good thing because we’re increasing the base of the donors and, in the long run, that can pay off,” Chitturi said. “When you have a large donor base, those donors may come back. Right now they may be students who have freshly graduated from school but if we can maintain that donor base, a few years down the line they could be the same people making large donations.”

In addition to seeking new donors off campus, Unruh and his team have been encouraging current students to donate as well.

“I would just remind all of the students that the ‘T’ Fund, which is the Temple student fund, is open to all students and we encourage all students as they are able to make their own contribution and make a financial investment in the future of Temple,” Unruh said. “It’s a wonderful way for students to get involved and make their own impact on the quality of their experience and that of students to come after them.”

Kate Kelly can be reached at

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