Donors create a ‘legacy’ with increase of endowed scholarships, professorships

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The number of endowed funds donated to GW doubled in 2015, compared to the previous year.

Eighty-three new endowment funds were donated to GW this past fiscal year, the most in recent years, according to GW’s endowment report. Many of the funds supported professorships and scholarships, as well as the GW Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute that was created with a $7 million gift.

Many of the University’s new endowments support professors in various departments, which experts have said can help attract more donations and draw accomplished professors. An endowed professorship is one of the highest honors a faculty member can receive.

Endowment funds have increased each fiscal year since fiscal year 2013.

Donors can choose to make an endowed gift with an initial donation of $100,000, according to GW’s campaign website. Donors can pledge and make payments on the fund for up to five years. Because endowed funds are part of GW’s overall endowment, they continue to generate interest – supporting students or professors for decades.

GW’s total endowment – made up of donated funds and its investments – is worth about $1.6 billion, and increased by about 15 percent in fiscal year 2014.

A $2.5 million donation from trustee Terry Collins and his wife Alisan created the Alisan and Terry Collins Professorship in October 2014. Igor Efimov, the chair of the department of biomedical engineering, was installed in the professorship last spring.

Efimov said the professorship gives him a financial cushion to pursue new research in areas like cardiovascular disease, which he wouldn’t have been able to complete otherwise. In addition to the research and instructional responsibilities that come with the professorship, Efimov has played a role in continuing to fundraise for the endowment by speaking with current and potential donors.

“It’s always a pleasure because usually, the people who are alums, they also serve on various advisory boards for the University so they’re very engaged,” Efimov said. “They studied here as students, have successful careers, now they share with future generations.”

University spokesman Brett Zongker said the increase in the number of endowments is partly because some of the funds had initially been created to support the Corcoran College of Art + Design and the Textile Museum, which were then transferred to GW. At least 16 of the funds highlighted in the University’s 2015 endowment report were designated for the Corcoran College of Art + Design and the Textile Museum. GW took over the Corcoran College of Art + Design in February 2014.

Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Aristide Collins said the funds are valuable because they make a long-lasting contribution.

“Many GW alumni and faculty members consider endowed gifts because they will benefit students and faculty for generations to come, creating a legacy that advances donors’ interests in a permanent way,” Collins said in an email.

Experts said the progress made in the $1 billion campaign in the past year shows that the University has recently put more energy into fundraising, which could also be a catalyst for the large number of endowment donations.

James Plourde, a senior consultant at the fundraising consulting firm Campbell & Company, said that while GW’s active fundraising may drive in more donations, some of the funds are also created when donors die and leave money behind for GW.

“A lot of people leave money for endowments in their estate plans,” Plourde said. “Any given year, a number of those people pass away, then those funds will be transferred over to the University. You can’t predict when that’s going to happen.”

Priya Desai contributed reporting

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