ETSU is experiencing an influx in the amount of private donations received through the ETSU Foundation, an independent funding organization that receives private gifts to the university.
At this time last year the foundation had received $3.92 million. As of the end of January 2015, ETSU has received $7.96 million in private gifts, a 103 percent increase over the previous year.
“In fundraising, there can be anomalies that can change numbers,” said Jeremy Ross, chief of staff for external operations at ETSU. “This particular year, though, what is encouraging is that has not happened. We haven’t received any unique, abnormal types of gifts. Certainly, we would like to receive those, but we’ve received support from numerous donors.”
Ross said new university programs and facilities— like the fine and performing arts center and the football program — often provide the motivation for people to donate.
Programs the community see as beneficial for the region and the economy are generally supported, Ross said. “I think there has been an aggressive approach from ETSU to create new programs that have interests among students, faculty, staff, alums and the community.”
Ross said the university will receive anywhere between $1 million to $4 million near the end of the fiscal year.
Ross said the recent decrease in state funding has highlighted the importance of creating new programs at ETSU.
“I think we have to be more entrepreneurial, but I also think we have a responsibility to meet workforce demand,” Ross said. “So we have to offer programs that match the workplace or students’ needs, and that along with the fact that there’s been declining revenues, we’re not in a position to always offer programs that aren’t in high demand.”
Ross said private funding is becoming a significant factor in university budgeting, and an important component in the university’s funding infrastructure is the donations provided by alumni.
About 3 percent of ETSU’s alumni give to the university. Ross said the university is attempting to improve this number and has increased the original number of alums donating to the university by 10 percent.
Ross also said over 70 percent of the gifts given to universities nationwide come from individuals, and a vast number of people give for philanthropic reasons.
“There’s a misconception that people give primarily for a tax benefit or that large corporations give for recognition or for naming rights,” Ross said. “But the research and experience tells me that most people give because they want to help.”
Ross said it’s hard to predict whether this amount of funding will continue in the future.
“I hope that the trend is upwards,” Ross said “We are increasing efforts to enhance private support, but it is dependent upon multiple factors.”
These factors include the economy, employment and the experience graduates receive at ETSU, Ross said. “It’s important that students now that they receive a first class education, a fantastic university experience and when they become successful years from now they’re going to be more inclined to say ‘I want to help the next generation of students.’”