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On way to ‘banner year,’ UMass looks to innovate fund-raising options

With federal and state ­dollars in question, the University of Massachusetts system has ratcheted up fund-raising, achieving 58 percent of its nearly $103 million goal in the first half of fiscal 2013.

“Our performance this year is really standout,” said ­Norman Peters, chairman of the UMass Board of Trustee’s Advancement Committee at a meeting Wednesday. “In comparing it to last year, we’re really on the move. Of course the first two quarters are usually the slowest. So it looks like we’re going to have a banner year.”

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All the campuses but UMass Dartmouth surpassed the halfway mark for the fiscal 2013 goal, as well as the year-to-date numbers from last year. The number of donors has ­increased as well, with 47,856 halfway through the year, compared with 45,272 during the same period last year.

“We have an impressive list of potential prospects,” said Divina Grossman, UMass Dartmouth’s president. She said she has hired three more fund-­raisers, including one for the new law school, with the aim of building relationships with the school’s 50,000 alumni. “We ­haven’t even begun cultivating those people,” she said.

“Dartmouth is in transition; they haven’t had staff,” Peters said. “You have a new chancellor. The vice chancellor for fund-raising left, so here she came in new. She doesn’t even have a vice chancellor to raise money. She’s hired three fund-raisers; she probably needs to hire five more, so she’s been under­staffed totally, so her numbers are reflective of her operation. She’s really devoted an outstanding amount of time ­toward fund-raising, and she’s doing a good job.”

The system is considering embarking on a program that could help both the university and donors who would like a ­return on their investment in the university.

“Many colleges and universities have an annuity, where you donate certain money and they guarantee a set return. And they’ve been going, depending on the age of the person, 4, 5, 6 percent. It’s a good way for them to get savings rates,” ­Peters said. “The college gets the eventual gift and, meanwhile, these people get a return on their lifetime, which you’re not getting now. It’s become a very popular thing, and we’re really looking at it.”

‘Our performance this year is really standout. . . . So it looks like we’re going to have a banner year.’

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Donations to UMass go ­toward a range of initiatives, which can be dictated by the donor, including scholarships, building projects, a professorship, a school’s endowment or operating budget, Peters said.

On Wednesday, university officials announced that ­research and development spending in fiscal 2012 climbed to $597.5 million, from $586.7 million in fiscal 2011.

Federal research dollars ­account for 75 percent of ­UMass research spending. If Congress decides to go forward with budget cuts known as “seques­tration,” UMass stands to lose $32 million, said the UMass president, Robert Caret.

With potential federal funding cuts, as well as state funding less than requested, alumni donations have taken on greater importance.

“We’re being cut in all directions. . . . Fund-raising is a great resource,” Peters said.

UMass attorney Carolyn ­Flynn told the committee that concerns over potential changes in charitable deductions from federal taxes resulted in more donations at the end of 2012, and recent changes in the estate tax remove the incentive for many people to use charitable donations to avoid some taxes.

UMass Dartmouth has raised $1.4 million so far, which is below its end-of-year goal of $8.2 million. Other UMass campuses have exceeded their goals.

Lowell has raised about $11.3 million so far, which eclipses its fiscal 2009 year-to-date total of $4.6 million and approaches the end goal of $16 million.

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