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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

EDITORIAL: Wanted: Better Fundraising

Taking into account that now is the season for giving, it may be appropriate to end the semester, like a certain Dickens character, with a plea for more. More giving towards UMass, that is.

In a Gaston Institute Report several years ago, Director Andres Torres made note: “The fundraising world lives by an adage that goes something like this: ‘If you ask, the answer is either yes or no. If you don’t ask, the answer is no.'”

The university can no longer afford to have the answer be “no.” With the state Legislature becoming less and less dependable, especially in recent years, regarding funding public higher education, eyes are obviously turning to other sources of revenue.

Patricia Flaherty, UMass Boston Alumni Association President, said last year in the alumni magazine, “More than ever before, private fundraising is essential to the academic, research, and professional service mission of the university.”

Things have gotten worse since then. The rapidly deteriorating infrastructure has finally been realized, but the bad news is that it will cost $50 million to repair it. This on top of $40 million for a new garage (roughly the same price tag as each Air Force One take-off). As Vice Chancellor of Finance Ellen O’Connor pointed out at a recent Faculty Council meeting, with the Big Dig leaks and cost overruns, the prospect of the Commonwealth picking up the tab for more big projects does not look good.

UMass Boston cannot continue to play catch-up with other schools when it comes to fundraising. The stakes are too high at this point, and the university budget is too small to sustain any more hits to the wallet.

A permanent vice chancellor for institutional advancement, a position that was only created in 1995, needs to be found as soon as possible. A fundraising campaign/plan should be emphasized, broadcast, and shouted out from the rooftops, led by a steering committee made up of UMass alumni who are CEOs. The website should play a large role in emphasizing the plan and its goals. Fundraising through a website can be enormously beneficial to a small organization like UMass Boston. At the very least, put a direct link on the front page for people to find. For an example, take a look at Mississippi State University’s slick website (http://www.msufoundation.com/).

UMass Boston’s history of fundraising hasn’t exactly been heartening. According to the website, the university raised only $1 million of “external support” in 1988. The total private donations were up to $9 million by 2000. That’s less than a million a year, if you were counting.

The university’s first capital campaign didn’t begin until October 1996, with a plan to raise $50 million in five years. According to the website, by December 2000, the plan was ahead of schedule and on target. Another shot needs to be taken at that.

More fundraising needs to happen at the top, too. While future presidents will have a hard time matching the fundraising accomplishments of former UMass President William Bulger, an attempt must be made. The system, and not just this campus, depends on it.