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By Micaela Myers
A great recipe blends key ingredients perfectly, creating a whole far better than the sum of its parts. Just such a recipe has been propelling the University of Wyoming forward since 2001, in the form of state matching dollars combined with private donations.
Each matching project starts with a great idea—a need that UW can help address. That idea may come from a faculty member within the university, or from a potential donor, or from another source within or outside the state. Next, mix in some private donations and a healthy dose of state matching dollars, and you have funding so powerful it can endow star professors, fund scholarships and create innovative programs that make a real difference to the citizens of Wyoming and beyond.
Between 2001 and 2013, a total of $168.6 million in endowment and facilities matches has been applied toward students and the faculty, programs and facilities that support them. Rising up to meet those matching dollars is a tide of private donations.
Wyoming Speaker of the House Tom Lubnau explains how the program works: “If donors want to donate to UW, they can double their money because those donations are matched by state tax dollars to encourage donations.”
“The matching funds program was designed to provide an incentive for donors to give their dollars—matched 100 percent by the state—to implement academic and building projects,” says April Brimmer Kunz, vice chair of the board for the UW Foundation. As the first female president of the Wyoming Senate, Brimmer Kunz was a sponsor of the initial bill that provided matching funds for the university.
The concept has been an unparalleled success, and matching funds have continued to be allocated by the Legislature for athletics facilities, academic facilities and endowment matches. After the UW Board of Trustees reviews and approves gifts eligible for the state match, those state funds are used to match privately funded endowment gifts of $50,000 or more and facility gifts for special university building projects of $25,000 or more.
“State of Wyoming matching funds have forever changed private giving to UW,” says Ben Blalock, president and CEO of the UW Foundation. “State match opportunities have vaulted private giving to UW from $20 million annually around 2000 to more than $50 million two years in a row. The public-private partnership in place in Wyoming is the envy of universities across the nation. Wyoming has become a national model for how the state can work directly with donors to elevate higher education to new heights of excellence.”
UW President Dick McGinity says, “Finding opportunities within UW for private donations that can be matched with state dollars is one of my favorite things to do.”
To date, approximately 9,300 scholarships have been awarded to students with the help of endowments matched by the state. In addition, 30 endowed faculty positions in excellence aid in attracting and retaining top faculty. Most visible around campus, however, are the stunning facilities and programs that matching funds helped create, such as the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, the Berry Biodiversity Conservation Center, the Literacy Research Center and Clinic, and numerous others, including renovations to many of the athletics facilities. In all, at least 20 facilities received matching funds thus far.
One example is the 27,300-square-foot Energy Innovation Center (EIC) that opened in 2013. Clearly cutting edge, the new home of the School of Energy Resources (SER) is a vision of what the future holds for UW students and researchers. Technology such as the Shell 3-D Visualization Laboratory allows scientists and engineers to literally step inside their data sets.
The EIC and SER illustrate what matching dollars can accomplish, says Rob Hurless, deputy director of the SER. The $25.4 million EIC was made possible through private donations and state of Wyoming matching funds, including corporate donations from Encana Corp., BP, Royal Dutch Shell, Peabody Energy Inc., Arch Coal Inc., Marathon Oil Corp., Questar Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., Cordillera Energy Partners, QEP Resources Inc., Cloud Peak Energy, Double Eagle Petroleum Co. and WPX Energy. “I think you get so much more substantive and much more beneficial conversations by using the matching program,” Hurless says. “It makes a world of difference when you invite somebody to participate, and you acknowledge that the money is important, but you really say, ‘We want your guidance and perspective.’ It sets the stage for an ongoing conversation. As they become engaged, they see potential for research that’s interesting and potentially useful to the industry and their company as a participant in the industry. That research ties back to UW’s land-grant mission and saying we need to participate in the economy of the state.”
These industry partnerships can be seen once again as UW works to become a top quartile academic and research institution in areas of excellence appropriate for Wyoming. To aid professors and students in conducting key research, the planned energy and engineering High Bay Research Facility will house labs where large-scale experiments can be conducted, including a digital rock physics lab, geomechanics lab, a core-flood facility and a structural engineering lab, along with the supporting facilities and personnel to manage the facility.
Initial funding for the facility included $15 million in private donations, doubled by a $15 million appropriation from the Legislature. Another $10.5 million to match industry investments for technology and equipment was approved during the 2014 legislative session. Private donations matched by state dollars for the High Bay Research Facility have already come from companies including Hess Corp., Halliburton Co., ExxonMobil, Ultra Petroleum Corp., Marathon Oil Corp., Baker Hughes Inc., Royal Dutch Shell and Arch Coal Inc.
“State match dollars have truly created UW’s corporate giving program,” Blalock says. “When Gov. Dave Freudenthal worked with the Legislature in 2006 to initiate a major energy agenda for UW, which became the UW School of Energy Resources, the university suddenly had immediate alignment with our state’s energy industry. State match dollars provided the incentive needed to encourage corporate giving to UW. Now under Gov. Matt Mead’s Tier 1 commitment for UW’s energy, engineering and STEM programs, UW’s corporate giving programs are growing dramatically each and every year.”
During the 2014 legislative session, the state appropriated $5 million in matching funds for an endowed chair in petroleum engineering. An additional $5 million in state matching dollars will be available with an emphasis on disciplines directly related to Wyoming’s economy.
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.