The Ohio University Foundation has consistently received nearly $40 million for the past four years in donations from alumni, students, faculty and organizations.
In those years, about 14,500 donors contributed to the OU Foundation every year, according to the university’s website. This list is approximately 55% alumni donations, with 35% students, faculty and community supporters.
The remaining 10% includes organization and corporation contributions, Jennifer Bowie, chief of staff to the vice president of University Advancement, wrote in an email.
“The Ohio University Foundation was founded in 1945 and continues to live its vision of ‘Philanthropy in Support of Education’,” Bowie wrote.
Within the foundation there are over 2,000 different funds donors can contribute to. This includes undergraduate scholarships, various programs, university athletic teams and more, Samantha Pelham, a university spokesperson, said.
Some of the strategies the OU Foundation has used over the past few years include crowdfunding through online donation opportunities, implemented through projects such as Giving Tuesday and Giving Day.
“In recent years, the Advancement team has introduced innovative new opportunities, like Giving Tuesday and OHIO Giving Day, and tools like crowdfunding and more sophisticated online giving in order to make it fun, easy and meaningful to make a gift in support of Ohio University,” Bowie wrote.
Giving Day is one tool that has been effective in raising donations. This year, the event brought in donations from 2,672 donors who gave 3,196 gifts to the university from around the country, raising OU $1,181,553 this year, Pelham wrote.
The Advancement team has come up with newer creative strategies this year such as being able to donate and symbolically give a name to a squirrel on College Green.
“Over 1,000 squirrels were named, leading to thousands of dollars being donated to The Fund for OHIO, which supports the mission of Ohio University,” Pelham said.
While the foundation’s strategies to gain donations have been subject to change, the mission to connect donors and recipients has been the main goal since the OU Foundation was established.
“The overall mission and strategy to connect joyful donors with grateful recipients — in support of strategic priorities — has remained the same for more than 75 years,” Bowie said.
Two of the foundation’s donors are Dr. David Descutner, a former OU communications professor, and his wife Dr. DeLysa Burnier, a current OU political science professor.
The couple has committed to donating to the OU Foundation and other universities, including Slippery Rock State University and the University of Illinois, since they started at OU, Descutner wrote in an email.
“We now have fully endowed awards and scholarships at all three universities, nearly all of which go directly to undergraduates,” Descutner wrote.
Due to loyal contributors such as Dr. Descutner and his wife Dr. Burnier, the OU Foundation has been able to raise $40 million for the past four years, using each donation upon donor request.
“Most donors to The Ohio University Foundation restrict their gifts to specific colleges, units, programs, scholarships, etc,” Bowie said. “The University and the Foundation will use the funds to support Ohio University students, faculty, programs, and places in accordance with donor wishes.”
In the 2023 fiscal year, the foundation itself provided $24 million in support of students, faculty and programs, while also securing $20 million to use for university priorities each year, Bowie said.
“The OU Foundation and the work it does are critical to the success of the university,” Descutner wrote. “We would not be the excellent university we are without the Foundation’s effective efforts to connect alumni and friends of the university to the mission and ultimately the needs of the university.”