Fundraising Activities of Public Institutionally-Related Foundations

Considerations for Foundation Implementation, Transition, and Operation

Topics: Fundraising, Advancement, Endowment Management, Donor and Prospect Relations, Major Gifts and Campaign Strategy

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University advancement divisions increasingly establish independent 501c3 foundations to serve as the philanthropic receiving arm of the institution. This brief outlines the benefits and challenges of establishing a new foundation with fundraising responsibilities and giving new fundraising responsibilities to an existing foundation. It also provides an overview of foundation funding and staffing trends.

  • Key observations from our research:

    1. A 2012 Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) survey found that 79.5% of university-affiliated foundations lead or manage fundraising efforts for their institution.

    2. Institutionally-related foundations maintain varying degrees of independence from their institutions.

    3. Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs) define the relationship between universities and foundations and clarify fundraising responsibilities of each entity.

    4. Contacts recommend institutions and foundations collaborate through overlapping board members and joint planning committees.

    5. New foundations should maintain a high level of transparency to assure university and regional constituents that foundation activities support the institutional mission.

    6. Contacts recommend that institutions take several steps to transition an existing foundation to the fundraising arm of the institution.

    7. Foundations fund operating expenses through administrative fees on the endowment and new gifts, direct appropriations from the institution, unrestricted gifts, and other foundation-managed assets such as real estate holdings.