Philanthropy fuels our future

Dear Faculty and Staff:

I hope you feel the same sense of hopefulness and renewal that I do as spring draws near. Nature is reawakening. Warmer days and more daylight hours await. And after a long, often dark 13 months, our country appears to be getting the pandemic under control.

March is also when my thoughts turn to prepping the camper for the upcoming camping season—and when Noel and I begin to anticipate the summer trips we have planned to some of the nation’s national parks. I hope you are looking forward to activities in the coming months that spark similar feelings of joy.

Now that we have reached the midway point of the semester, some of the busiest weeks of the year await many of us, culminating with the May commencement ceremonies. Knowing that we will “Zoom” our way to graduation, I want to take a moment now to fully acknowledge the exceptional achievements of our soon-to-be graduates and the tremendous support of their families during this unprecedented year in their lives. Our 2021 graduates are indeed a historic class. I look forward to the great things they will do in the years ahead.

As I think about our new graduates, it also reminds me of the donors whose generosity continues to make a significant difference not only for our students but also for our academic programs. Put simply, the support of our donors is critical to providing students with a quality education and enabling faculty to pursue cutting-edge research opportunities.

The past few weeks have provided several examples of gifts that demonstrate the extraordinary support we enjoy, including:

  • a $2 million commitment from Northwest Farm Credit Services to support WSU research, laboratory enhancements, and students;
  • a $6 million matching gift to enhance our athletic facilities; and
  • a $2 million gift from the Washington tree fruit industry to establish the Tree Fruit Physiology and Management endowed chair.

These gifts (and others like them) result from a shared belief in WSU’s mission. We build relationships around those beliefs with key potential donors. Chancellors, deans, and department chairs then articulate specific needs and opportunities. Finally, WSU Advancement professionals craft those needs into proposals for donors.

All gifts make a difference for WSU, and I am deeply grateful for the many alumni, friends, and corporate partners who choose to invest in the University with gifts large and small.

It is clear to me that increasing philanthropic support for WSU will be a vital component of fulfilling our institutional ambitions moving forward. One of my roles as president is to support the resource needs associated with our evolving OneWSU system. In my mind, the most pressing needs of the University and the communities we serve are best identified at the ground level—by faculty, staff, and students. When we are successful in meeting—and surpassing—these needs, we open doors for our students, research, and scholarly endeavors.

I am often asked why donors select certain projects and not others. People wonder, in particular, why donors decide to support WSU Athletics or an academic college unrelated to the one from which they earned a degree. While the reasons are different for every donor and every household, the bottom line is that people give to areas that are of personal interest and passion. My job—like other academic leaders and fundraising professionals—is to listen closely to donors’ interests and then bring forward the ideas faculty and staff generate that align with the interest areas donors identify.

One of the key ways to advance these ideas is through a comprehensive fundraising campaign. We successfully completed our last major fundraising campaign in 2015, an effort that raised more than $1 billion during a 9‑year period. We are currently in the early stages of our next campaign, which is expected to last at least 10 years and have a fundraising target significantly higher than the previous effort.

With this in mind, we want to engage you in a series of conversations next fall focused on your ideas about areas of opportunity for philanthropic support. We will then shape these ideas into proposals to place before donors interested in supporting WSU. Ideas for philanthropic support come in all shapes and sizes, and we will need ideas suitable for transformational gifts—which could be in the $50 million to $100 million range—as well as ideas for gifts from first-time donors who want to support a particular scholarship or academic program.

So, when you see announcements about gifts to WSU and they prompt your own thoughts about where philanthropic support is needed, please know that the entire university community soon will have the opportunity to share its input.

Finally, I want to express my appreciation again to all of you for your continued dedication and work during this challenging time. It is hard to believe that we have been dealing with the pandemic for more than a year. I continue to be amazed and humbled by the ways you go above and beyond for our students.

Thanks for all you do for WSU, and Go Cougs!

Kirk Schulz, President
Washington State University