UF heightens fund-raising efforts

By Kimberly Anne Lopez
Alligator Staff Writer

In the wake of economic decline, UF waits for the Florida Legislature to mandate budget cuts across general revenue, but a final decision is not needed for UF officials to recognize the need for an increase in fund-raising ventures.

UF will increase its efforts in soliciting private donations and reaching out for alumni support in order to alleviate the deficit created if the Legislature votes to decrease university expenditures - a cut currently estimated at 5 percent.

To make up for the lost funds the UF Foundation is looking at ways to expand the fund-raising and alumni staffs, UF Foundation Executive Vice President Paul Robell said.

"Increasing these staffs produce dollars in the end," Robell said. "We have figured out that the more people you have out there the better you're going to do."

The Foundation, which is a non-profit organization that receives, invests and administers private support for UF, already has felt the impact of the national decline in the economy losing about $20 million in endowment funds this past year, he said.

Endowments continue to decrease in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks because of the investments made in the stock market with endowment funds, Robell said.

The economic decline and the fear of losing state matching programs often discourages potential endowment donors, so UF must personally come in contact with potential donors to assure them their investments will be well used, he said.

"Our efforts must mainly be calling on individuals who may have an interest in UF," Robell said.

While UF supporters may be asked to support the university in its tough times, budget cuts will still be necessary and all areas of UF may be affected.

In a meeting on Oct. 2, UF Board of Trustees members continued conversation about a possible tuition increase, a decrease in summer courses and about a $570,000 cut from library resources to remedy the probable 5 percent - or $36.5 million - cut in general revenue.

State universities' libraries largely depend on endowments and set budgets to enhance and keep libraries updated, but as in 1990 when the nation saw economic decline, the libraries are no exception to budget cuts and also will have to focus on fund raising, UF Director of Libraries Dale Canelas said.

UF is currently looking at ways to form a fund-raising committee composed of alumni across the state that can help the university increase awareness of library needs, said Marcia Pearce, UF libraries director of development.

At this point in discussions, specifications have not been made as to where decrease in library funding must come from, Canelas said.

UF is not alone in the scramble to make up for the funds expected to be lost in the upcoming fiscal year. Other Florida universities also are exploring ways to remedy the deficit in manners that would least affect students.

The University of South Florida library system expects an increase in the budget cut percentage and is preparing for it by cutting back unnecessary costs, said Derrie Perez, interim dean of the USF library system.

But as the entire state awaits the budget cuts, USF officials are looking at the best ways to solicit funds and increase the usage of endowments, she said.

"All [university] libraries are actually going to have to do more fund raising," Perez said. "We have to make sure that our friends of the library know our needs.

"We need to be specific with them and ask for their help."

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As an enterprise story, this story required me to pitch the story idea to editors. It forshadows a series of stories that followed from media across the state following the wake of Sept. 11.

Story was written while covering the UF administration beat.

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