The University of Richmond won a 2012 award honoring its superior fundraising program in the category of overall improvement.
The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) recognized Richmond after considering 1,011 eligible institutions, selecting 429 and awarding 30, said Julie Solomon, assistant vice president for development.
"For the school overall it's a statement that we're doing the right things in terms of the programs we've put into place, and the alumni have been responding with gifts," Solomon said.
CASE considered a many factors when judging the schools including: the pattern of growth in total support, evaluation of what contributed to the total support figure, overall breadth in program areas and their patterns of growth, pattern of donor growth among alumni donors and other individual donors and total support in relation to the alumni base.
"It was surprising. I got a letter and a big award in the mail," said Tom Gutenberger, vice president of advancement. "The award isn't something the school can apply for. They take the data the school submits from the past three years and analyze it."
Gutenberger said that in the past few years Richmond has seen overall giving, the annual fund and the number of alumni making gifts increase. Total revenue was: $18,240,557 in 2009, $21,439,211 in 2010 and in 2011 it reached $35,795,418, including a bequest of $10.5 million from the estate of Lora M. Robins.
Solomon said that her office had been focused on the annual giving program, volunteer engagement and building a class network and strong reunion program. "We've had great attendance at reunion and homecoming programs ... people get engaged that way, then they tend to give back," she said.
Solomon said the university still needed to improve, especially in terms of alumni participation. In 2009, alumni participation was 25.9 percent, in 2010 26.8 percent and in 2011 27.6 percent. Despite increases, Solomon said Richmond has been underperforming compared to peers.
"We want to see a broad base of support for the institution ... U of R is such an impressive place to peers generally, there's sort of a disconnect in terms of alumni giving and participation," Solomon said.
The advancement team would like to see the rate go over 30 percent, Gutenberger said. "We've put a lot of time in and seen the increase, but we can still do better," he said.
Gutenberger said the real priorities for fundraising in the future would be to increase alumni participation rates for the fourth straight year and increase money for summer fellowship programs and scholarships.
"It goes along with what President Ayers wants to do: Have each student have a paid fellowship, research opportunity or special international experience during the summer," he said. "We've had a lot of alumni helping with that and creating opportunities."
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