Framingham State exceeds fundraising goal for Fiscal Year 2019: University received over $4,000,000 in private fundraising

Graphic by Evan Lee and Kathleen Moore

Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) was a “fantastic year” for fundraising, according to Eric Gustafson, vice president of development and alumni relations.

“Last year, if you include [private] grants, we raised a little over four million dollars,” he said. 

He added, “An average year for us is two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half million dollars in what we call private fundraising.”

Private fundraising comes from individuals, who donated $1,449,654, and foundations, which gave $722,398. Additionally, corporations and organizations gave $1,918,892, according to Gustafson. 

In total, the University raised $4,090,944 in private funds for FY19, he added.

This is not including public funding the University received, which comes from federal, state, and local government agencies, Gustafson said.

According to Patricia Bossange, director of the office of Grants and Sponsored Programs, “The Grants office brought in a total of $3,065,710, of which $1,134,822 was public money,” in FY19.

The remaining $1,930,888 from her office came from private funds, Bossange added, which Gustafson explained overlaps with the funds raised from foundations, as well as corporations and organizations. 

Gustafson praised FSU alumni for their major contributions to the private fundraising efforts every year.

“Alumni have a real affinity for the University, appreciation for the experience here, and a desire to help students,” he said.

“We have alumni who will tell you their story about working overnight shifts and then coming to class in the morning just to afford school. … And if they can help a student have to work a little less to afford their education, they see that as a real benefit,” he added.

Senior Ana Luisa Asmar, who was awarded the Murtaugh Scholarship, said, “I am very thankful to have been chosen as a recipient.

“It lifted a lot of financial worries off my shoulders, as well as my family’s, heading into my senior year at Framingham State,” she said. 

“My parents did not have to work as many overtime hours, and I have more time to devote to my studies. – time I would have previously spent working extra shifts.” she added.

Asmar said the scholorship “gave us a little more financial freedom.”

Junior Brandon Blecher, who was happy to hear about last year’s fundraising success, said, “Now, [the University] can help more people who can’t afford tuition, and that will relieve some of the stress off of students.”

Gustafson explained his department works to keep in contact with alumni, as well as friends of the University, and builds relationships with them that often develop into financial contributions.

“Our alumni love Framingham State, so a lot of it is just reconnecting them and re-engaging them with the University,” he said. 

A population density map displayed above Gustafson’s of  desk, which charts where FSU alumni are now, shows that while many have stayed in the New England area, significant numbers have also moved westward to California and Arizona, as well as southward into Florida. 

“What we want to do is give them the opportunity to come back,” Gustafson said.

His department hosts alumni engagement events both on campus and regionally, and mails out the bi-yearly Alumni Magazine, among other communication efforts, to keep alumni up-to-date on the FSU of today and maintain their affinity for the University. 

“That’s really the role that we have – to build philanthropic relationships on behalf of Framingham State,” Gustafson said.

“To connect individuals with a passion for public higher education – and Framingham State, specifically – with the cause, which is our students and our academic programs, clubs, and other things going on on campus, and to help them decide how they want to support the University and its students,” he added.

Their support takes the form of either “restricted” or “unrestricted” gifts to the University, according to Gustafson. 

Restricted gifts are donated with a specific purpose in mind, such as to set up an endowed scholarship fund in a donor’s name or improve a particular aspect of the campus, he said.

One such improvement was the Crocker Grove Ram, a bronze sculpture that was the brainchild of sisters Janina and Nancy Swiacki, both of whom are alumni of the University. 

“They made the lead gift to that. And then, we had a lot of other donors, alumni especially, who wanted to contribute, too, because they loved the idea,” said Gustafson.

Unrestricted gifts, on the other hand, allow the University to decide how the funds will be used, according to Gustafson.

One way they are used is to support the Choice Internship Program, which offers paid opportunities for students to work in nonprofits and government agencies that would not normally be able to hire paid interns, he added.

Both gift types flow through the FSU Foundation Board, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that manages and distributes the funds for the University, according to Gustafson, who is also the Board’s executive director. 

Robert Ramrath, president of the Foundation Board, said, “One of our primary responsibilities is to responsibly manage the donations that we get.” 

For endowed scholarship funds, which are permanent and grow over time to support students indefinitely, responsible management equals wise investment, he explained. 

“We invest for the long haul. We invest so that the money will grow, and typically, we distribute our scholarship funds from the growth of our investments,” Ramrath said.

The Foundation Board’s membership includes several financial experts “who are in the financial industry themselves,” as well as hired money managers from Brown Advisory and Boston Trust, according to Ramrath. 

Roughly half the Board’s funds go to each organization, he said. “They provide professional management services for us.” 

Senior Christine Sifre said while she likes the idea of permanent endowments helping students forever, since “people will need money for college until it becomes free,” she still believes their investment outside of the University can be “potentially risky.”

She asked, “Why not use the money to invest in students directly?” 

Some donors agree, preferring not to have their gifts become endowments and specifying instead that they want the funds spent down more quickly, according to Ramrath.

Gustafson explained the Board will transfer such funds to the University for immediate use by the specific department, program, or facility the donor wishes to support. 

For endowed scholarship funds, the Foundation follows an “Investment and Spending Policy” that “instructs the Board to annually spend 5% of a three-year rolling average of each fund’s value,” according to Gustafson.

He explained, “We take the final June 30 fund balance for each of the last three fiscal years, average those totals, and then award 5% of the average the following year for student scholarships.”

A minimum of $1,000 from each fund must be awarded annually, he added. 

“This ensures we get funds out to students annually, while maintaining the fund permanently so funds are available for FSU students in perpetuity,” Gustafson said. 

He identified one notable endowment as the Christa Corrigan McAuliffe scholarship. 

The original funds for this scholarship were largely raised by schoolchildren in a national campaign after the unfortunate fate of the Challenger space shuttle in 1986, he said.

McAuliffe’s mother, Grace Corrigan, then used those funds to set up an endowed scholarship in her memory at Framingham State, he added.

“The Christa McAuliffe scholarship has grown very large, not only because of all that money raised at the time, and that was 1986 … there’s also been a lot of money people have wanted to give in honor of Christa since that time, and it’s been directed toward the scholarship,” Gustafson said. 

The full-tuition scholarship was awarded to 21 students last year, according to Gustafson. 

“It’s special because it honors Christa and her legacy, not only here at Framingham State, but also her legacy as the first teacher in space,” he added. 

Senior Anni Xie said she thinks scholarships such as these are great. “The money is always helpful,” she said. 

However, she expressed that she believes not enough people know about scholarships or how to receive them. 

“I think there needs to be more publicity for scholarships and guidance on how we can get them,” she said.

Gustafson said scholarships are awarded by the Office of Financial Aid, which also identifies all current FSU students who are eligible for them based on criteria specified by the donors of specific scholarship funds.

One scholarship, the FSU Alumni Association Leadership Scholarship, is awarded through an application process, he said. 

This application can be found on Framingham State’s website. 

Sophomore Gustavo Silva said he has not received any scholarships from the University.

He suggested, “I think instead of giving the money to specific people, they could use it to decrease the overall tuition for everyone. 

“Lower overall tuition would encourage more people to come here, and higher enrollment would, in turn, bring in more money,” he added. 

For Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20), Gustafson said the goal for private fundraising is “in the neighborhood of $2.75 to $3 million,” which includes private grants.

“Even though it’s less than last year – last year was a pretty special year and there was a lot of grant activity that was phenomenal – that’s where we’ve set the target for this year … and hopefully, we’ll do better,” he said.

Bossange said the grants office is “lucky to be in touch with many generous funders.”

She explained her office seeks out private entities and public agencies that offer grant money to state universities like FSU and works to submit grant proposals to them. 

One public grant proposal the office has submitted is to Mass Development, a state finance and development agency that funds capital projects, Bossange said.

“It’s for about $150,000, and it’s to renovate the Entrepreneurship Center down on Rt. 9,” she explained.

The grant would fund Innovation Center Director Mark Hardie’s plan to reconfigure the center’s interior into a more open workspace, which would allow for greater collaboration there, she added. 

“For total planned submissions this year, we’re planning to submit over eight million dollars worth of grants,” said Bossange.

Of the proposals submitted so far, she said the University has already been awarded $3.7 million for FY20. 

“A huge chunk of that is the Boston Children’s Hospital’s money, which is for the food study, and that’s about $2 million right there,” she explained. 

The food study, which is currently held at the Warren Conference Center, invites eligible participants to live on the property for eight months, where they can earn up to $10,000 eating low-carb meals provided by researchers to test their dietary effects on weight loss, according to the hospital’s website.

During FY19, the University received a $1,000,000 private grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Bossange said. It will be given out in installments of $200,000 over the course of five years, she added. 

The grant will reconfigure the STEM pathways of Framingham State to help students from underrepresented backgrounds succeed, she explained. 

When discussing grants that don’t fall in the six- or seven-digit range, Bossange stressed, “There’s no such thing as a small grant.”

She described an $8,000 grant received from the Middlesex Savings Charitable Foundation that supports the Suitable Solutions program of Career Services and Employer Relations. 

The program helps students prepare for the workforce through mock job interviews, education that develops professional skills, and resume feedback. It also provides students in need with professional attire, at no cost, for when they get to the real interview. 

“So, that’s $8,000. It’s still worth all of our trouble to go and apply for it because you’re helping these wonderful kids get a job,” Bossange said.

The Rams Resource Center also received approximately $5,000 from Walmart and $500 from the Foundation for MetroWest, she added.

The center provides non-perishable food items, toiletries, and resource referrals for FSU students, faculty, and staff.

One notable agency that Bossange said her office coordinates applications for is the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, a national agency whose grants are appropriated by Congress.

“It was founded by Senator [J. William] Fulbright, who believed that any time we could get people from different cultures and different parts of the world together, talking, it was a wonderful thing,” she explained.

The agency gives out 8,000 fellowship grants a year to students and faculty across the nation, offering them the opportunities to teach, study, or conduct research abroad, she said.

Last year, one of those 8,000 Fulbright recipients was FSU graduate student Nick Ironside.

Ironside, who applied to be an English teaching assistant in Bosnia and has spent seven weeks in the country so far, wrote in an email that “it’s provided so many different opportunities” to him. 

“I spent so much time reading about Bosnia, its education system, and speaking to people while in the U.S. But being in Bosnia gives me the opportunity to spend time in classrooms, meet local teachers and students, and observe,” he wrote.

 “All of these experiences expand my perspective on education-related matters that we focus on in the U.S., too,” he added.

Bossange said she always encourages students to apply for the Fulbright program because of the experiences it can provide them. 

She said, “It’s not all about your GPA. They want to see a transcript, of course, but it’s also about the story you have to tell.” 

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