Comments and reflections from Sidney S. Micek
PRESIDENT EMERITUS & SENIOR ADVISOR TO THE FOUNDATION PRESIDENT
Dear Foundation Board Members:
On January 1, 2017, after thirteen years as president and CEO of the University of Illinois Foundation (January 1, 2000–December 31, 2012) and four years in my part-time role as president emeritus and senior counsel to the Foundation president (January 1, 2013–December 31, 2016), I will officially retire as an employee of the U of I Foundation. Over these seventeen years, it truly has been my privilege and honor to serve the Foundation and the University of Illinois. Recently, UIF president and CEO, Jim Moore, asked me to reflect a bit on those past seventeen years and think about some of the opportunities and challenges the Foundation might engage in the future. He then suggested that I “briefly share” with you some of things we discussed. (Please note that I put “briefly share” in quotes, because one of my favorite sayings is that “Short speeches make long-term friends, and I always want to be long-term friends with each of you.”) So with this in mind, I thought I would focus on what I believe are three important topics for consideration by the Foundation.
Governance Founded in 1935, the U of I Foundation was incorporated as an independent, not-for-profit 501, C (3) corporation with the stated mission of, “The University of Illinois Foundation is a nonprofit corporation responsible for encouraging and administering private gifts made to further the University’s mission. Although the Foundation is a separate entity from the U of I, the Foundation’s sole reason for existence is to serve the University.” This mission continues to guide the dedicated and respected work of the Foundation’s board of directors and professional staff, and it continues to define and guide the dynamic relationship between the Foundation and the University. I say “dynamic” because like all successful organizations, both the Foundation and the University are always having to identify and adapt to new growth opportunities and challenges. Historically when the Foundation was founded, the U of I campus was located in Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) and was the State’s only public major research university. In the late 40’s, the University added its Navy Pier campus in Chicago as a way of accommodating educational demands of returning veterans and others following WW II. With the urging of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, the U of I expanded its Chicago presence in the early 60’s by opening the U of I Circle Campus, and then created the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) when it merged the Circle Campus with the Illinois College of Medicine in 1982. In 1995, the former Sangamon State University in Springfield, was added as a third campus with a new name, the University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS). It was at this time the trustees of the University of Illinois approved the branding statement: “One great university; three distinct campuses.” Then during this past decade as each of the campuses grew in size and complexity, much deliberation took place about the best way to think about the organizational structure of the University. This past spring, University trustees announced that going forward, the University of Illinois, organizationally, will be referred to as the University of Illinois System composed of three universities: the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Springfield. As with past significant university organizational changes, it is imperative that the U of I Foundation’s leadership examine the implications of this change and determine, strategically and operationally, what actions need to be taken to effectively work with the president of the U of I System and the chancellors of UIUC, UIC, and UIS to significantly increasing private gift and grant support from alumni, friends, corporations, and foundations. (A review of the Memorandum of Understanding that was developed between the Foundation and the University in 2005 may be a good place to start.)
Increasing support from private donors Without question, the need to increase the private revenue stream of UIUC, UIC, UIS, and, the U of I System, in general, has never been more important. This is true, in part, because the demand by prospective students in the State of Illinois (and elsewhere) for a U of I education has been increasing while at the same time, the U of I, as well as other public higher education institutions in Illinois, has experienced a major decline in budgetary and scholarship support from the State, especially over the past decade. Even with major efforts to reduce operating and capital costs by the U of I, tuition costs for students and their families have significantly risen and, as a result, student financial need has followed the same demand curve. Another equally important reason for the need to increase support from private donors is the positive positions UIUC, UIC and UIS have placed themselves in relative to their educational program and research competitors regionally, nationally, and globally. The challenge now is for the Foundation, working with University leadership, to develop and articulate a compelling case for increased support from each private donor constituency. (The new system wide/ university-focused fundraising campaign currently being worked on is a major step toward this end.)
Developing more top fundraising talent “People give to people, who they trust and care about!” Clearly, fundraising is a process of building a meaningful relationship with a potential donor and asking that donor to make a gift that will achieve the objectives of the donor and the recipient of the gift (i.e., creating a “win-win” situation for both). It is a process that requires of each fundraising professional a working knowledge of the organization’s mission, objectives, priorities, and constituents, how the organization is structured, functions, and grows, and how people within the organization develop, are productive, and are happy with who they are, who they work with, and what they accomplish. It has been my observation that the fundraising staff associated with the Foundation and the individual universities within the U of I System have been and are a relatively small group of hardworking and successful professionals who love, and are dedicated to making a positive difference in, advancing the University of Illinois and meeting the needs of its students, faculty, and other constituent groups. I say “small group” because compared to our public and private higher education competitors, the number of professional fundraising staff in the U of I is much smaller. Furthermore, it has been my observation that much more could be done to develop the fundraising talent we have to make them even more productive in their fundraising and institutional advancement leadership roles. I also believe that much more could be done by the Foundation and each of the U of I universities in helping faculty and academic administrators better understand their roles and responsibilities in raising private support for their programs and students. (The development of a new comprehensive “talent management” program for Foundation and university fundraising staff is underway.)
Let me conclude by saying again that it has been a privilege and honor to have served the Foundation and the University of Illinois and be associated with all of you. See you around!
/// Return to December 2016 newsletter