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UMaine experiences record-breaking year in fundraising

The University of Maine saw a 115 percent increase in fundraising in 2018 from the previous fiscal year.

The University of Maine Foundation raised over $36 million in the 2018 fiscal year. That number makes 2018 the most profitable year in UMaine history for fundraising and makes the Vision for Tomorrow comprehensive capital campaign goal roughly 80 percent complete.

The UMaine Foundation is an independent 501-C3 nonprofit organization that works to raise money for the University. Jeff Mills, the president of the UMaine Foundation, works closely with UMaine to help determine its need. In 2015, UMaine transitioned its development staff to the UMaine Foundation to decrease donor confusion about who to contact for donations to certain departments.

“So what you want is to have one sort of central place where money can be collected and disseminated,” Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Robert Dana said.

The UMaine Foundation’s Vision for Tomorrow campaign’s goal is to raise $200 million by 2020.

The money is being raised for student scholarship opportunities, the construction of a new engineering building on campus and general department needs. After this year the goal is much closer to being reached, and Mills is both hopeful and humble.

“The president goes with us on visits, the [deans] go with us on visits and everything. But we’re the point-people, we work hand in glove with them to raise money,” Mills said. “You never know, if you have a dip in the economy or something else happens, but we feel pretty confident that we will make our goal.”

The UMaine Foundation received a $1 million pledge at the beginning of this fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019, from the Abbaggassett Foundation for a new engineering building being constructed on campus.

The Abbaggassett Foundation was founded by wife and husband Debbie Lipscomb and Ward Denham in Bowdoinham, Maine. Denham is an alumnus who earned his electrical engineering undergraduate degree at UMaine, according to the UMaine website.

The UMaine Foundation is also holding more money in endowments than ever before — over $327 million. Endowments are money donations that keep the principal intact while only spending the yearly interest accrued on it.

Many people choose to invest in endowments because they can have larger turnout over a long period of time.

The majority of the money UMaine receives is through tuition and state subsidies, but by letting the UMaine Foundation do the bulk of fundraising, the university can receive anonymous donations.

“Somebody who’s anonymous is typically very, very humble …  and not that the people who are not anonymous are not … it’s just that they don’t want any notice,” Dana said.

The typical donation is less than $10,000 and they receive donations as low as $25. The UMaine Foundation has a pin system that represents the various levels of donations people have given and helps the organization track donor information.

“The vast majority [of donors] are alumni,” Mills said. “About 90 percent of our gifts are from alumni.

In the lead up to Nov. 6, the UMaine Foundation has been encouraging people to vote on a bond issue that would designate state aid to universities in Maine, which UMaine is legally barred from promoting.

The UMaine Foundation raises money for each college based on individual need. The dean or official from each department informs the UMaine president about the subdivision’s need for the year, and the president talks with Mills at the UMaine Foundation about how to best reach it.

Together, the two determine what funds should be raised. Development officers from the UMaine Foundation are in frequent contact with department deans and officials for updates on department needs.

“When people want to give us anonymous gifts they are able to do that. We’re also able to help out more with political activity. So right now we’re raising a lot of money for the bond issue that’s on the ballot on Nov. 6,” Mills said.

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