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Endowment fundraising is relatively new to the public university scene.
Traditionally only private higher learning institutions created and funded endowments, but years of budget cuts have forced public universities to follow suit.
At the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, that’s where Eddie Stuart comes in.
As the vice chancellor for university advancement, the UNCW alum heads up the fundraising efforts at UNCW, including corporate and private gifts, as well as growing the relatively young institution’s endowment.
As part of the UNC system, UNCW relies heavily on the state for its funding. But continued budget cuts have forced university officials to rely more on philanthropic support, Stuart said.
With 35 percent of UNCW’s budget allocated from the state, UNCW has been relying on other revenue streams to keep tuition reasonable and to fund faculty research and other programs.
“The reason endowments are so important is twofold: It provides sustained support so you can count of those funds year after year after year,” Stuart said. “They are designed to grow. The really give the university that stability in knowing we are going to have the money to support student scholarships and faculty research.”
UNCW’s endowment is about $76 million, which Stuart said is slightly under par with other state universities of its size.
“It is pretty low and a lot of that has to do with UNCW’s youth. We haven’t been engaged in a philanthropic program as long as some other sister universities in the system,” he said. “In 2004, our endowment was $23 million. Now it’s $76 million. That probably gives you an idea of how serious we’ve become. Where that ranks in the system—we’re lower than most campuses our size—but we’re doing everything we can to nurture it and make it grow.”
Comparatively, UNC Chapel Hill has an endowment of $2.2 billion. N.C. State boasts a $635 million endowment, UNC Greensboro has a $198 million endowment and East Carolina University has a $127 million endowment.
Appalachian State University, similar in size to UNCW, has a $72 million endowment, Stuart said.
“Private institutions really live and die by endowments. Endowment fundraising for public universities is not necessarily a new concept, but it’s gaining momentum. Only in the last decade has there been a real imperative to have robust fundraising programs,” Stuart said.
Endowment funding has also funded such opportunities as the Sherman-Skiba Undergraduate Research Award and the Buckner Lecture Series in Creative Writing.
“Philanthropy allows us to do some neat things, like the Wentworth Travel Series,” where students visit international locales where they’re learning about its literature.
Alumni and friends
In terms of university fundraising, two main groups who give to the university are alumni and “friends.”
“It’s a mix of those two and several others. One thing that is a little unique is we get almost as much support from friends as we do alumni,” Stuart said. “Friends are folks in the community who have adopted us as their alma mater.”
UNCW’s friends have been an integral part of the university’s fundraising base.
“It is a little unusual for a university to have such a large friend constituency. We have a special responsibility to the people who have no connection to the university other than it’s their own community,” he said.
Stuart said there was “overwhelming community support” to make UNCW part of the UNC system.
“The university’s beginnings come from this community’s desire to have an institution of higher learning in Wilmington. That’s really carried through. The second is we have a lot of folks who have moved to Wilmington and chose to come here. From feedback we know that UNCW is a big reason for them wanting to move here.
“UNCW is very well positioned to be a real leader in higher education in North Carolina. I think higher education, in general, is changing. It’s really a transformative time to be at the forefront,” Stuart said.
According to a university press release, Stuart and his team are responsible for completing UNCW’s largest fundraising campaign in the university’s history and has raised more than $66 million to support endowed scholarships, distinguished professorships and many university initiatives.
Caroline Curran is the managing editor at Port City Daily. Reach her at (910) 772-6336 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter at @Cgcurran.