SDSU Foundation raises record amounts of private donations despite economy

Mitch Leclair

Mitch Leclair

Banks are collapsing, unemployment is rising, but SDSU alumni just keep on giving.

The SDSU Foundation recently reported it received a record-setting $52.9 million in donations in 2008, a year in which many Americans experienced negative adjustments in their pocketbooks.

SDSU’s latest comprehensive, private fundraising campaign, “It Starts with STATE,” began with a $190 million goal. The plan has increased philanthropic action towards the Foundation, according to Steve Erpenbach, president and CEO of the SDSU Foundation.

“The record number of gifts is a sign of the loyalty, generosity and enthusiasm of alumni about the growth and vision laid out by President Chicoine,” said Erpenbach.

Among other benefits, financial help from the Foundation provides some students with the Jackrabbit Guarantee Scholarship. Rachel Dahl, a senior consumer affairs major, said the aid has reduced the need to dip into her savings for school.

“One thousand dollars makes a huge difference,” Dahl said. “I think it’s a good thing that also helps attract incoming freshmen.”

The Foundation has devoted $9.5 million in future receipts for the annual endowment.

The Foundation has allocated nearly $116 million, or 61 percent, of their campaign to new buildings and renovations. This is one of five categories of need designated by the university’s 2007-2012 strategic plan, which is available on SDSU’s Web site.

The other four designated categories and their approximate planned benefits from the It Starts with STATE campaign are: endowed faculty positions, $10 million; scholarships and fellowships, $24 million; research, leadership, arts, honors college and museums, $7 million; athletic facilities and scholarships, $33 million.

A few major projects the SDSU Foundation hopes to help fund include the second phase of the Performing Arts Center, the Dykhouse Student-Athlete Center and the Bioprocessing Innovation Center.

Campus aesthetics even look to make a slight improvement, as the Foundation has devoted half of one percent of its comprehensive campaign to provide for defined campus entrances, public art and campus green spaces.

SDSU’s $52.9 million figure outpaced other area universities’ recent fundraising efforts, including those of North Dakota State and the University of South Dakota. In the fiscal years ending June 30, 2008, NDSU and USD reported $14.6 million and $15.8 million totals, respectively.

NDSU suffered a sharp decrease from its $31.1 million total in 2007 – a downturn SDSU did not experience. In fact, the SDSU Foundation has raised about $3.5 million through February, according to Erpenbach. He said the first two months of the year are typically weak donation periods, yet the Foundation has done “very well already.”

A large portion of last year’s fundraising can be attributed to Avera Health’s gift of $15 million for the new Avera Health and Science Center, which began to take shape recently.

Both Erpenbach and Bob Otterson, executive assistant to the the president, referred to this as a “transformational gift” – the kind the university needs for its ambitious goals over the next few years. Otterson said the donation, which is the largest ever given to SDSU, created fundraising momentum.

In all, 10,967 unique donors gave to the SDSU Foundation in 2008, with over 1,000 giving for the first time. Alumni with graduation dates ranging from 1928 to 2008 gave to the university.

The SDSU Foundation is currently planning a donor appreciation event to be held April 30 in the Volstorff Ballroom.

#1.881851:2625266419.JPG:DSC_1019.JPG:Phone Jack Jennifer Vanderwal makes a call to an alumnus, looking for donations to improve the university, for the SDSU Foundation.:Ethan Swanson