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Everywhere you look at UW, you’ll see matching funds at work. “We came up with the idea over the years to help leverage state general fund dollars to enhance UW,” says Wyoming Senate President Tony Ross. “I think what it has done is encourage private philanthropy and donations. Those kinds of programs have really, I believe, enhanced our flagship, which is the University of Wyoming.”
Indeed, Brimmer Kunz says the matching funds are remarkable for what they have accomplished. “The matching funds endowment program has had the greatest impact on private philanthropy in the history of the University of Wyoming. The generosity of the Legislature and private donors has transformed the university since the inception of the legislation.”
Nothing is more powerful than being able to go to donors and tell them their donations will be matched dollar for dollar, Blalock says. “The opportunity to say to a donor that the state is so committed to partnering with you that the state will double your gift—that’s an amazing statement to be able to make to a donor. That really gives a donor the confidence that their investment is valued and the state is committed to the longevity of that investment.”
Donors want to direct their money to where they believe it’s best used—from scholarships or endowed chair support to operations, athletics or academic facilities—and still have that donation matched. “Most donors have areas of interest. They want to spend their money where they can make the greatest impact for their particular areas of concern,” Brimmer Kunz says.
Ross agrees: “It gives people a stake in whatever is important to them.”
Matching dollars aren’t just used for buildings and endowed chairs, as evidenced by Donne and Sue Fisher’s gift to the UW Literacy Research Center and Clinic, which opened in March 2014. The couple gave $2.5 million that was matched by $2.5 million by the state of Wyoming to offer seed funding for literacy outreach and research projects, to create grants to fund K–12 teachers conducting innovative research in their classrooms, to expand the center’s statewide tutoring program and to provide scholarships for undergraduate, graduate and doctoral students.
“We made the decision to invest in the UW literacy center because we feel like it can make a difference in the lives of many young people across the state,” Donne Fisher says. “The state’s matching gift program also played a big role in our decision. You don’t often see states partner with private contributors as they did in this instance.”
“Donors to this program have worked very hard for their money, and they’re well aware that a 100 percent return on your investment is something you don’t find in many places,” Brimmer Kunz says. “It’s something that lives on and helps generations of students.”
“We’re fortunate to have a tax base in the state of Wyoming that allows us to fund the university in a way that other states don’t have the luxury to fund a university,” Lubnau adds, explaining that tax base is largely thanks to the extractive industries. “University funding is a very high-priority item for the Legislature.”
“We’ve been blessed to have enough resources to do a lot of the things we wanted to do,” Ross says. “It’s a labor of love.”
As part of the state’s extraordinary support, the matching funds play an important role by motivating donors and doubling funds to help UW continue to grow and prosper. That support allows UW to provide outreach to the state and fulfill its mission of offering high-quality, accessible and affordable higher education—exposing students to the frontiers of scholarship and creativity.
Lubnau says it’s all about valuing the university and what it offers the state. “We’ve all come to know that a high-quality university education and a top-tier university are amazing assets to the state in terms of economic development, in terms of culture and in terms of quality of life.”
An Idea is Born
While buildings may be the most visible sign of matching dollars at work, University of Wyoming President Dick McGinity says, “It all begins with an idea—an unmet need or program opportunity that the university can help address. Good ideas can come from anyone, whether the source is a professor, or a donor or a citizen of the state. Once an idea has surfaced and been vetted, it goes through a process of identifying faculty needs, facility requirements, if any, and programmatic or operational costs. From there, the university and its foundation can help identify potential donors. I and the UW Foundation are interested in hearing from anyone who may have a valuable recommendation.”
Note: The state match is currently available only for identified institutional priorities.
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