University gifts exceed $10 million

Two months after receiving a $25 million grant for sustainability, Portland State’s Office of University Development has announced they now hold more than $10 million in donation pledges from thousands within the Portland community.

Two months after receiving a $25 million grant for sustainability, Portland State’s Office of University Development has announced they now hold more than $10 million in donation pledges from thousands within the Portland community.

The increase, which represents a 400 percent increase in gifts from just two and half years ago, comes from planned gift pledges, according to Dianne Alves, the director of Major Gifts at the Office of University Development.

Hannah Fisher, president of Associate Students of Portland State University, said the increase will help the school.

“It’s very amazing, and it shows an increasing commitment not only to the university but to higher education,” Fisher said.

The $10 million represents the amount of total gifts from individuals since July 2006, when the figure was only $2.5 million.

“What we have are two types of individual donations: immediate and planned gifts,” said Alves, explaining the classification differences between gift types.

“Immediate gifts are donations that we receive now, usually for a fixed amount like $25,000, whereas planned gifts are willed to the university that we receive when an individual dies,” she said, explaining that the university may not see the money for the next three or four decades.

According to Alves, planned giving has been one of the popular methods that an individual can give to the university since its opened in 1946. The benefit of a planned gift allows an individual, who may not have the means to do so while they’re alive, to leave a lasting legacy to their community, she said.

Most gift pledges benefit students directly because they are designated for scholarships, said Mary Ann Rees, PSU’s director of gift planning.

ASPSU vice president Kyle Cady said because the gifts go toward scholarships, more students will be able to college.

“It will provide a lot of opportunity for people to go to school,” Cady said. “I hope that students are aware of that, because some scholarships are underutilized. Some people don’t even know that there are scholarships that exist out there.”

Rees also explained the options for planned gifts.

“They can come in the form of a life insurance policy, personal life savings, real estate assets or shares of stocks,” she said.

Rees describes her job as more in the realm of public relations than just an administrative assisant. Because she is someone that people talk to when they feel generous, her ability to relate to potential donors on a personal level is crucial in securing their trust and eventual donation to the university, she said.

Her typical week includes making two or three house visits to people in the community, sending out greeting cards on certain occasions and routinely updating donors on what’s going on at PSU. But Rees said her job is more than just accepting gifts.

“It’s not like we receive their gifts and don’t talk to them for five years,” Rees said. “I connect with them [people] on a personal level and get them involved with the university by inviting them to events, concerts and football games on campus. It’s all tailored to their interest.”

Mark Langseth, the assistant vice-president of University Development, said the area of impact of a planned gift depends on the individual.

“The donor can specify to us where and how they want their money to disburse,” he said. “If they love the PSU athletic department, they can designate the money to go there, or to a particular school of their choice. They can also state if they want the money to disburse in two years, or three years.”

Rees said that when asked, the majority of people are interested in how they can help unburden students with higher education costs.

“When I go out to meet people, I always take a list of tuition prices with me, for most people are very interested in helping the students pay for college,” Rees said. “They are often surprised at how much tuition costs nowadays.”

Alves said the majority of the money from the planned and immediate gifts goes toward supporting students in continuing their education.

Alves said PSU’s newly appointed university president Wim Wiewel is probably helping the university receive more pledges. Wiewel has made it a point to emphasize private fundraising since he took office at the beginning of fall term.

“I think that with Wim Wiewel as president, people will be more inclined to give to the school,” she said. “When we have an interim president for almost a year, people were anxious for the new leadership to takes place. Now that they see a clear leader that they can excited about, it can make a difference in potential donors feel connect to the school.”

Students who receive scholarships from an endowment should show their appreciation for the donors by attending an appreciation reception in the spring, Rees said. Students interested in writing thank you letters can contact the Office of University Development for more information.