Give to the Max puts fundraising in perspective

Jen Kochaver, Features Editor

The first few weeks of November, students may have noticed a lot of messages encouraging students, alumni, family and friends to donate money towards Augsburg University. This was due to Give to the Max, an annual, digital event thrown by GiveMN which was launched in 2009.

This state-wide fundraiser is an opportunity to raise not only funds but also awareness to the larger community about many groups and projects which are happening not just at Augsburg but all across Minnesota. This year Augsburg was able to raise $251,615 over the 15-day Give to the Max campaign through 1,325 donors. While significant, Give to the Max is far from Augsburg’s biggest fundraiser. Annually, Augsburg raises about $8 million through connecting with alumni, parents and friends of Augsburg.

From Nov. 1 to Nov. 15, donors had the option to contribute to the Augsburg Fund, described on Augsburg’s Give to the Max page as providing “flexible, unrestricted support for financial aid, student services, research opportunities and more,” as well as to fund any of the 30 specific Auggie projects registered for the event such as efforts towards historic film digitization, several international trips for different athletic teams,  Model UN and Augsburg’s 2019 Peace Scholars.

While Give to the Max brings attention to specific projects that directly and immediately impact students, most of Augsburg’s fundraising efforts are currently focused on building up Augsburg’s endowment. Augsburg’s website defines our endowment as “a collection of individual funds pooled together for investment purposes to provide annual financial support for all that the University does — teaching, research, financial aid, building and grounds maintenance,” which is “invested in perpetuity.”

An endowment’s primary purpose is to provide security for the future. Though generally defined in value by a lump sum, endowments are a collection of funds, each of which has a different purpose with different stipulations as defined by the donor. A percentage of the value of the funds is withdrawn every year as part of an institution’s annual budget, and this reliable source of income allows organizations to invest in long-term projects without worrying about variations in income, economic climate or other factors outside of the control of the institution.

One source of endowment funding is through donors pledging a portion of their estate to Augsburg once they pass. Though this pledge does not manifest as useable to Augsburg for, typically, many years, this is a standard way to grow an endowment through donations of impact (read: large donations). Endowments are also increased through exceptionally generous (again read: large) gifts to the college, but these are much more difficult to come by.

The market value of Augsburg’s endowment currently stands at about $43.9 million. This is the highest value our endowment has obtained since 2007, a feat the university has been able to accomplish through a combination of effective donor recruitment, strategic investing and the luck of a good investing market. Though at an intra-institutional high, Augsburg’s endowment is considerably smaller than other private Twin Cities universities and colleges. In 2016, St. Thomas had an endowment of $429 million, Macalester’s $700.2 million, Hamline’s $82.3 million and St. Catherine’s $74.8 million.

In scale, purpose, utilization and target market, Give to the Max could hardly be more different from endowment funding recruitment. But students should understand that both sources of funds are essential to maintaining the programing, scholarships, facilities and professors that make Augsburg not just a competitive institution but also a home for its students and a pillar of its community.

This article was originally published in the Nov. 30, 2018 issue.