Monday, June 03, 2002

OSU reaches far for funds

The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Cuts in state support for Ohio State University have made fund raising an increasingly important part of the job for some of the university's top officials.

        Less than 20 years ago, raising money from private sources was the responsibility of a handful of university employees. Today, Ohio State's fund-raising arm employs 158 people and has a $14.5 million annual budget, with four offices nationwide and plans to look for new donors in Asia.

        It has built an endowment of $1.1 billion, the 10th-largest among public universities, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

        Last year, it raised $65 million from corporations, ranking Ohio State fifth among U.S. universities and ahead of some other schools with larger endowments, such as Harvard and Michigan.

        The increasing pressure to raise money has affected the university president, deans and some faculty members, The Columbus Dispatch reported Sunday.

        For example, professors Lonnie Thompson and Ellen Mosley-Thompson, who have spent many of their combined 50-plus years at the university in polar regions studying climate change, went to Florida in February to talk to some of the university's biggest donors.

        It was the first time the couple performed fund-raising work for Ohio State, but they don't think it will be the last.

        “Frankly, we'll probably be doing more of them, and the reason is the declining state budget,” Mosley-Thompson said.

        “The pressure to raise funds today is relentless,” said Jerry May, vice president of development at the university. “Fund raising at a public university 20 years ago was an extra. It was, 'Yes, it would be nice to have it.' Now it's becoming part of the budget.”

        In the past 10 years, corporate donations to Ohio State have amounted to approximately $500 million — about half the total amount raised.

        Corporate dollars are designated for specific purposes and can come with stipulations for things such as research, faculty selection and classroom curriculum.

        “The concept behind the partnership is that there will be a relationship between the company and the university that will be a broad spectrum,” said Richard Fortner, associate director of the university's Engineering Experiment Station.

        As relationships between corporations and Ohio State have become more complex, the line between philanthropy and payment for research has blurred.

        “There's always going to be a gray area” between research dollars and money raised by the development staff, May said.

        “One of the biggest reasons why we're so successful at raising corporate dollars at Ohio State is we don't worry about that. In the end, all the corporate stuff benefits the university.”

        Watchdogs say it benefits corporations, too.

        “Keep in mind, a lot of companies give because they want the better students and they want to be able to have access to the university's research, or be able to influence the university's research,” said Daniel Borochoff, president and founder of the American Institute of Philanthropy in Chicago.

        Ohio State deans say they spend as much as half their time raising money, and they are even evaluated on their fund-raising abilities.

        Since the late 1980s, each dean has been assigned at least one fund- raiser to help with the task. The university now employs 66 such specialists, known as development officers.

        “Fund raising in a university setting does not come naturally. You have to teach them how to do it,” said May, who conducts seminars on the topic.

        One of the fund-raising events that's become increasingly important for the university in recent years is Winter College, a series of lectures by prominent faculty members that takes place in February in Naples, Fla.

        The location is strategic: In the winter, 21,000 Ohio State alumni live in Florida.

        “The goodwill generated by this event is huge,” said William Kirwan, who is in his final month as the university's president before leaving for a post in Maryland.

        This year's Winter College was the most successful to date, generating five major gifts — four for $100,000 and one for $250,000, May said.


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