CASPER, Wyo. — A sluggish economy didn’t stop the University of Wyoming from collecting a record $43.1 million in private contributions during the last fiscal year.
More than 24,000 donors gave to the school, which raised more than $40 million in private contributions for only the second time in its history, according to the university. The contributions include gifts to Wyoming Public Media and the Cowboy Joe Club.
The University of Wyoming Foundation, the organization that solicits and receives donations for the school, hasn’t pulled back on its fundraising efforts during the down economy, said foundation President Ben Blalock.
“We still do our jobs, which is to request private support for the University of Wyoming,” he said in an interview this week. “And people have been very generous in their response.”
No single factor was responsible for the record amount of private giving, Blalock said.
Wyoming weathered the recession better than most states, and even as the national economy staggered along, many donors stayed committed to the university.
The record amount of private giving is also reflective of the university becoming a stronger institution, Blalock said. Donors want to invest their money in successful organizations. When they see the university constructing new buildings or making other improvements, they are more inclined to open their own wallets.
“It is an interesting phenomenon in the world of private giving ... the stronger your institution becomes, the stronger the attraction of donors to make private gifts,” he said.
The energy industry has also upped its contributions to the university over the past five or six years, Blalock said. The increase, he believes, is tied to the creation of the School of Energy Resources in 2006.
Energy companies contribute to the university for several reasons, according to Bruce Hinchey, president of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming.
Private gifts fund research that may lead to new techniques for oil and gas production. The contributions are also an investment in the workforce.
The state encourages energy companies that operate in Wyoming to contribute to the university, Hinchey said. But, he said, companies view the gifts as a way to give back to the state.
Private gifts create more opportunities for students, said College of Business Dean Brent Hathaway.
The College of Business uses the donations to offer more scholarships and study abroad opportunities for its students. Private contributions also allow the college to attract experienced and nationally recognized faculty.
“It enriches the student experience,” Hathaway said.
Some businesses do contribute as a way to develop future workers, Hathaway said. But most of the time, the donation are simply an act of altruism.
“There is no business angle other than they are helping out,” he said.