SLUE FOR GREET
It takes finesse, strategy and some luck to bring in the University's biggest
donors. And Jerry May knows just how to do it. By Peter Shahin
, May has continued to work
e same donors that he began
i a quarter-century ago. All
een selling the same product:
entails a buildingscholarship
And those were the good days.
Today, state appropriations make up only
17 percent of the general budget - the money
used to pay most instructors, cut the grass and
keep the lights on. Over the course of the last
decade, the state's appropriation for the Ann
Arbor campus has fallen from about $363 mil-
lion in fiscal year 2002-2003 to $279,108,000
in fiscal 2013-2014 in nominal dollars. In real
terms, if the 2002-2003 appropriation had
grown only at the rate of the Consumer Price
The manwho makes the money
The man who leads the University's devel-
opment activities is no stranger to a chal-
lenge. May began his career in fundraising
in 1979 - when the University's fundraising
staffwas on half of the top floor of the Student
Today, there are 550 people working in
development at all three University cam-
puses and across the nation. Nearly 175 of
those people are full "development officers"
- those that go out and engage with donors
directly. May oversees all of them.
May graduated with an English degree from
Michigan's HopeCollegebefore earningamas-
ter's degree from the University ofVermont.In
his mid 20s, he served asa dean of students for
New England College before applying to the
University for a doctorate in Higher Educa-
tion Administration. While he was wrapping
up his studies, a job in the University's nascent
development operation opened up. Since his
wife was already workingin student affairs,he
decided to try something different.
"It was absolutely the perfect fit," May said.
"I tend to remember names, I tend to remem-
ber people, I love meeting strangers, I love
relationshipbuilding, and I'mnot afraid to sell.
I'm not embarrassed sbout asking people. The
vast majority - most people are. Not every-
body likes to ask people to give away money."
May said when he began in the fall of
1979, the University's endowment was less
than $150 million and development raised
between $15 to 30 million per year - a far cry
from the hundreds of millions raised annu-
ally in the last decade. According to Judith
Malcolm, senior director of the University's
executive communications, last year the Uni-
versity brought in $357 million in cash dona-
tions, and many millions more in pledges to
be paid over coming years.
Historically, private schools have a stron-
ger tradition in development than public
institutions, which usually benefitted from
strong and growing state support. Faced with
economic hardship and budget reprioritiza-
tions, many states have gradually reduced
the amount they spend funding flagship state
institutions, often reallocating funds to tech-
nical schools and community colleges.
The University saw a major revamp in
development practices in the early '80s
under the stewardship of Jon Cosovich, a
vice president for development recruited
from Stanford University.
At his first meeting with the staff, Coso-
vich laid out his plans for the University's
development: focus on transformational
gifts, not incremental ones. At the time, that
was $100,000 or above.
"The room was silent, everybody went
'$100,000?'" May said. "You know, at that
point, it was scary to think that was all you
arch, innovauve teacn-
udent aid will enable it
parties, receptions and
th donors, it's up to May
e need, the need
rersity President James
I a report titled, "The
ite Support of the Uni-
At the time, the state's
rsity had dropped from
he state general fund in
were going to work on instead of like $5,000."
Building a tradition of giving back is one of
May's long-termgoals.Eventhough the Univer-
sity has the seventh largest endowment in the
nation, which thisyear totaled $8.4billion, the
University's Office of Public Affairs estimated
that it ranked 101st on a per-studentbasis.
As an example, in 2011-2012, Harvard's $30
billion endowment amounted to about $1.43
million per student. In the same period, the
University's endowment was valued at about
$7.6 billion - or $174,000 per student.
"Endowment gifts have a benefit in per-
petuity versus an expendable gift," said Tim
Slottow, the University's chief financial officer.
"Which is wonderful - and we desperately
need expendable gifts for professorships and
financial aid -but an endowment actually pro-
vides support in perpetuity, and he gets that."
The goals for the University's next fund-
raising campaign, Victors for Michigan, are
expansive. Finding support for research and
progressive learning techniques are at the
top of the list. A billion dollars for student
aid, a billion dollars for the hospital system
and $400 million for the Ross School of Busi-
ness are among the more targeted goals.
Looming behind it all is the endowment - a
gift that keeps on giving. The Michigan Dif-
ference campaign raised between $925-940
million for the endowment.
Victors for Michigan will be May's fourth
fundraising campaign, and with a $4 billion
umiversiy's secon-mrges caaer ,wa me cre-
ation of a budget model capable of weathering
the enormous decline in state appropriations
and a national recession - some considerable
tuition increases notwithstanding. However,
with the budget increasingly squeezed to
maintain only what already existed, the flex-
ibility to invest in new projects and endeavors
became increasingly difficult.
Out of the crucible of year-over-year
declines in state support, the need for external
and voluntary support rapidly became more
than a luxury - it was a necessity. Though
a refocusing on development was under-
way well before the drastic cuts began in the
2000s, it gained anewsense of urgency.
goal, perhaps his greatest challenge.
Working with potential donors i
strategy, part finesse.
It's no Machiavellian machinatio
development officers will routinely me
strategize about how to best preseni
case to would-be benefactors and what
of authorities can help their case. Picki
right tactic, though, is just part of the jc
One of the most high-level duties of
opment officers is to generate a positiv
ing about the University. The most of
target is alumni - but unaffiliated "fr
of the University also make up a sign
portion of annual donations. Spon
events across the country to spread th
sage about research, work and progra
the University is part of the trick.
As an example, May said, a hypotl
event sponsored by the University's
diovascular Center that attracts a var
alumni probably won't motivate gradu
the law school to give to the CVC, but it
a glow or aura around the Universit
whole. That can come in handy when ti
School is looking for donations down th