RIT’s Development Programs Earn National Recognition

2009 CASE-WealthEngine Awards salutes ‘superior fundraising programs’

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A. Sue Weisler

An endowed fund to benefit the Baja SAE race team is among the fundraising successes resulting from RIT's student-giving program.

Through its commitment to innovation and fundraising, Rochester Institute of Technology has solidified a range of educational opportunities—including a tradition of off-road racing that demonstrates the university’s engineering technology savvy. A newly created endowed fund will ensure the long-term viability of the RIT Baja SAE race team, thanks to the fundraising tenacity of the program’s student participants.

“They want to know that it’s going to be there for the next generation of college students looking for the same kind of experience that we had,” states David Hallbach ’09, former racing team manager.

The success of the Baja SAE race team’s fundraising effort is an outgrowth of an initiative designed to enhance student giving at RIT. Three years after its creation, the university’s student-giving program raised more than $96,000 during the recently completed 2009 fiscal year, resulting from 1,256 student contributors, which represents 8 percent of the student body on RIT’s main campus. Students, who are encouraged to support individual areas of interest, designated their gifts toward 167 different RIT clubs and campus projects.

That spirit of giving speaks to the broader impact of RIT’s advancement initiatives, recognized by the 2009 CASE-WealthEngine Awards for Educational Fundraising and sponsored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. RIT earned an Overall Performance award intended to honor “superior fundraising programs across the country.” Other recipients include Columbia University, John Hopkins University, University of Pennsylvania, Yale University, Indiana University, and the United States Military Academy.

According to John Lippincott, president of CASE, “RIT has not only demonstrated the highest levels of professionalism and best practice in its fundraising efforts, it has contributed to the betterment of the educational advancement worldwide.”

During fiscal 2009, RIT raised more than $25.1 million through the support of 12,081 donors, keeping its giving almost flat from the previous year despite a challenging economic environment. Funding highlights include nine commitments of $1 million or more, and more than 2,600 donors contributed to a matching initiative to raise $1 million dollars in scholarship support in just six months. In addition, RIT’s Division of Development and Alumni Relations achieved 100 percent participation from its members, giving their personal dollars in addition to their professional expertise.

“I am very proud of the results our development and alumni team continues to achieve and how their efforts enhance the educational resources we offer at RIT,” states RIT President Bill Destler. “In addition, the efficiency we achieve in our fundraising allows donors to feel confident that their support of RIT is well managed and making the greatest possible impact.”

Destler’s personal support of RIT’s fundraising activity has a significant impact on growing the university’s culture of giving. RIT provides a dollar-for-dollar match of all student contributions. For each of the past two years, Destler and his wife, Rebecca Johnson, pledged up to $10,000 in support of this student-giving initiative, in addition to their personal support of scholarships at the $150,000 level annually.

“Students can think of it this way: If I donate $500, it’s like I’m donating $1,000,” says Hallbach, reflecting on efforts to create the Baja SAE fund. “So it really gave us an extra push because if we raise the money now, it will take half the time. We have that extra incentive.”

For more information on the 2009 CASE-WealthEngine Awards for Educational Fundraising, visit the Council for Advancement and Support of Education Web site.

NOTE: Rochester Institute of Technology is internationally recognized for academic leadership in computing, engineering, imaging technology, and fine and applied arts, in addition to unparalleled support services for students with hearing loss. Nearly 16,500 full- and part-time students are enrolled in more than 200 career-oriented and professional programs at RIT, and its cooperative education program is one of the oldest and largest in the nation.

For two decades, U.S. News & World Report has ranked RIT among the nation’s leading comprehensive universities. RIT is featured in The Princeton Review’s 2009 edition of The Best 368 Colleges and in Barron’s Best Buys in Education. The Chronicle of Higher Education recognizes RIT as a “Great College to Work For.”