URI must act more like a private school to compete

At a time when public funding for institutions of higher education can be limited, the role of fundraising foundations such as the University of Rhode Island Foundation becomes increasingly important to support scholarships, research, faculty and other vital educational needs. Michael J. Smith took over as president of the URI Foundation Dec. 1. He continues a tradition that saw donations raised by URI in fiscal 2011 reach approximately $20 million, an amount that has stayed steady over the past five years. More

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URI must act more like a private school to compete

COURTESY URI FOUNDATION
GIVING THEIR ALL: Michael J. Smith, president of the University of Rhode Island Foundation, says the people who give to Habitat for Humanity or the United Way are the people who are also going to be URI donors.
Posted 2/13/12

At a time when public funding for institutions of higher education can be limited, the role of fundraising foundations such as the University of Rhode Island Foundation becomes increasingly important to support scholarships, research, faculty and other vital educational needs. Michael J. Smith took over as president of the URI Foundation Dec. 1. He continues a tradition that saw donations raised by URI in fiscal 2011 reach approximately $20 million, an amount that has stayed steady over the past five years.

Fundraisers have a large pool of potential donors to choose from; URI alumni currently number approximately 170,000, with 48 percent residing in Rhode Island.

PBN: Can you tell us about the foundation and what it does?

SMITH: The foundation is in place to try to meet the needs and the priorities of the University of Rhode Island as determined by the university administration and the deans, to engage and create relationships with alumni, friends, corporations and other foundations that will ultimately help meet the needs that the campus set. It was founded in 1957. The endowment [valued at $102 million as of June 30] is part of and managed by the foundation.

PBN: Are alumni the group you most often target for donations?

SMITH: Building relationships with alumni is what we do the most.

Then there’s a very significant portion that would be considered friends and those would be parents, spouses of alumni that are interested in our university, and so there’s a whole grouping that would fall under “friends.” And then there’s the corporate and foundations-relations area that we create partnerships with, business partnerships with. We try to add to their bottom line in the same aspects we hope they will meet the needs of our campus, whether it be student needs, faculty needs or research needs.

PBN: How do most people give to URI? Is there any one vehicle that you find people use more than others?

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