How Alumni Donations Impact Institutions of Higher Education

An accomplished fundraising professional, Matt Kupec serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the Southern Illinois University Foundation. Over his career, Matt Kupec has helped raise more than $5 million for the organizations where he led fundraising efforts.

When an institution of higher education reaches out to alumni for financial support, it is working to collect funding that will provide the margin of excellence that will all these organizations to offer a full compliment of programming activities. In many cases, alumni donations provide the final funding to bring a program or initiative to fruition. Colleges and universities attain funding through a variety of sources, from tuition to state government funding, and, though this money might launch or initiate a project, it may not be enough. For this reason, alumni donations can be the deciding factor that completes a project, often referred to as “the margin of excellence.”

Alumni donations make a difference in less tangible ways, too. For instance, donating to an alma mater is a good way to stay connected to an organization that contributed to one’s professional and personal development. A strong alumni community can influence a university in numerous ways. Relatedly, the amount of alumni donations an institution receives is seen as a reflection of the quality of its offering, and some school ranking lists directly take alumni donations into account when rating colleges in the U.S.

Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) 2020 Survey Results

Matt Kupec serves as chief executive officer of the Southern Illinois University Foundation, where he directs the school’s $200 million fundraising campaign. Matt Kupec maintains membership in the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Kupec joined the SIU Foundation in 2018.

A global nonprofit association dedicated to educational advancement, CASE supports institutions in functions including communications, development, marketing, and alumni relations. In February 2021, the organization released results from a Voluntary Support of Education (VSE) survey that found voluntary contributions to higher education institutions amounted to $49.5 billion in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020.

Compiling data from 873 institutions, the survey concludes that while overall support decreased slightly since 2019, 48.6 percent of participating institutions reported increases in giving. Such results are particularly promising given the economic uncertainty precipitated by COVID-19, according to CASE President and CEO Sue Cunningham. More than 55 percent of total support in 2020 came from foundations and alumni, and 43.3 percent of foundation contributions came from family foundations.

CASE Organizes Online Development Conference for Academic Leaders

Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with decades of experience in the field of educational development. He serves as CEO at the Southern Illinois University Foundation, where he leads all fundraising efforts to support the university’s goals. In addition, Matt Kupec is an active member of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

CASE is an international nonprofit organization promoting the advancement of education through conferences, workshops, and learning opportunities for all professionals in the field of education. Chaired by veteran fundraiser Shaun B. Keister and organized by CASE, the Advanced Development for Deans and Academic Leaders conference will be held on June 14, 2021. The 2-day online, conference will help academic leaders, including deans and development officers, learn advanced fundraising techniques tailored to their gift and fundraising programs. By participating in hands-on workshops, attendees will also explore best practices to foster and improve donor relationships. Additionally, academic leaders will be able to enhance their performance within their prospect management systems.

Matt Kupec: The Power of Philanthropy in Higher Education

by Matt Kupec

September 29, 2019

Philanthropy plays a critical role in our society.  In 2018, Americans gave $427.71 to charities, a record level.  Of the total amount, $58.72 million went to support education.  In higher education these dollars help colleges and universities recruit and retain students and faculty, improve and build facilities, strengthen academic programs and support cutting edge research.

At a luncheon with Southern Illinois University alumni earlier this week, I had the chance to make the following points to the Saluki alumni pitch about the important role philanthropy plays for the University:

  • Philanthropy Provides the “margin of excellence.” Universities generate revenue from a variety of sources.  These include state appropriations (for public universities), tuition, research (for research institutions), philanthropic support and auxiliary revenue.  In many instances, dollars raised from philanthropy will be mingled together with other revenue sources to start a new program or build a new facility.  Philanthropy provides “the margin of excellence,” that is the money from private gifts gives organization the funds needed to complete a project, an initiative or a fund.  Without philanthropy, that project would not have been able to be completed.  As state budgets get tighter, private giving is playing an even more important role in allowing Universities to meet the challenges that await them.

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Matt Kupec: My First Missouri Valley Conference Basketball Tournament

by Matt Kupec

March 11, 2019

I attended the Missouri Valley Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament for the first time this past weekend.  I was there to watch the Southern Illinois Saluki’s compete for the MVC Championship in hopes of coming away with three consecutive wins and the prize of a berth into the NCAA Men’s Tournament Championship.

Unfortunately, SIU came up short and lost a tight contest to the University of Northern Iowa Panthers on a last second bucket by UNI.  A very disappointing loss in a season that began with high hopes and ended in the resignation of Head Basketball Coach Barry Vinson.

I have attended many Atlantic Coast Conference Championships over the years when I was the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s vice chancellor for development & university relations.  I had seen many great games with Tar Heel victories and some disappointing losses as well.  During my twenty-one years at UNC, the Tar Heels won five ACC Tournament titles.

As I watching SIU compete Friday night, I began comparing the Missouri Valley Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference basketball tournaments, thinking about the similarities and differences.  Here is my assessment….

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About the Author

Matt Kupec is a fundraising professional with 32 years of significant higher education development experience. He has directed three major university fundraising campaigns and nearly $5 billion has been raised under his leadership. He has led the fundraising programs at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, Moffitt Cancer Center & Research Institute and HelpMeSee, a New York City based non-profit. He is currently serving as Senior In-House Fundraising Counsel for Southern Illinois University-Carbondale.

Matt is a former record-breaking four year starting quarterback for the UNC Tar Heels. During his career he set 19 season and career passing records. Two of which still stand — most consecutive games with a TD pass and most wins as a starting QB. Matt also set the ACC record for TD passes his senior year at UNC. Matt was named MVP of the 1977 Liberty Bowl and the 1979 Gator Bowl becoming the 1st player in Atlantic Coast Conference history to be named MVP of two bowl games.

Matt Kupec: Giving Trends in Higher Education

by Matt Kupec

November 21, 2018

Fundraising at colleges and universities has become a very important source of revenue.   As University leaders face increased pressure on enrollments, new program initiatives, escalating personnel and program costs, and infrastructure needs for building renovations and upgrades, philanthropic support is taking on added responsibility for helping these organizations meet their ambitious agendas..

Colleges are making more investments in their fundraising operations as they look to dramatically increase their level of private giving support.  As such, we are seeing unprecedented growth in fundraising

Every year, the Council for Aid to Education releases the fundraising numbers for all institutions of higher learning.  For 2017, 3,700 institutions responded to the study.  Here we take a look at some of the results of the study:

  • Overall Trends in Higher Education Fundraising. Here are some of the trends of higher education fundraising:
    • Giving to America’s colleges rose 6 percent in 2017, lifted by a surge in giving by alumni.
    • Higher education as a sector raised $43.6 billion, the largest amount ever counted by the CAE survey since it began in 1957.
    • Colleges’ fundraising performed better than that for all nonprofits over all. The most recent “Giving USA,” which covered 2016, saw only a 1.4 percent increase in private support.
    • In 2016, giving by alumni was down by nearly 9 percent and by 6 percent among other individuals.
    • The Top 20 Universities in fundraising raised nearly $12.2 billion, or 28%, of the $43.6 billion total (see more below).
  • Top 20 Colleges in Giving. Listed below are the top 20 universities in terms of the overall dollars raised.  There are no surprises here as these colleges consistently rank as the top funding institutions on an annual basis.  The Ivy League placed six schools in the top ten.  The University of Washington at #12 is the highest fundraising public university……..

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Memorable Lessons Learned

October 16, 2018

Have you ever worked with somebody who taught you a valuable lesson that you have used in your life? Has anybody given you sage advice? It could be a boss, colleague, parent, teacher, coach, religious leader or somebody else whom you have been associated with during your life.

A good lesson learned will be etched in your memory and probably part of your daily routine. You can recite them in your sleep? Your poor family and friends have heard the lessons hundreds of times. You probably have tried to impart these valuable lessons to colleagues at work!

And sometimes they can be so simple it is astonishing that the lesson you learned has stayed with you for so long!

One that jumps to my mind came years ago when I was just fourteen years old. I was playing in a baseball all-star tournament and my team was set to go against a player who was an all-world pitcher. At practice the day before the game we were all intimidated by what we considered the herculean task of defeating this behemoth. We were even more of an underdog than David vs. Goliath! At least it felt that way!!

But I’ll never remember my coach, Mr. Wilkinson, telling us not to be intimidated by this guy and that he “puts his pants on one leg a time” just like we do. His message was clear. This guy was mortal and he was beatable. Well we went out the next day and won the game to advance to the National Championship Babe Ruth World Series. And thanks to Mr. Wilkinson I never ever let anybody intimidate me before a game for the rest of my career!! Any imposing situation I face, I recite the words of wisdom from Mr. Wilkinson!….

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