UNCW reports 20 percent fundraising jump during tumultuous year - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC

UNCW reports 20 percent fundraising jump during tumultuous year

UNC Wilmington reported gifts and pledges exceeding $11.3 million in the budget year that ended June 30, a 19 percent jump from the previous year.  (Source: WECT) UNC Wilmington reported gifts and pledges exceeding $11.3 million in the budget year that ended June 30, a 19 percent jump from the previous year. (Source: WECT)
Buzz Peterson, former head men's basketball coach. (Source: WECT) Buzz Peterson, former head men's basketball coach. (Source: WECT)
Former Chancellor Gary Miller (Source: WECT) Former Chancellor Gary Miller (Source: WECT)
WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) -

Despite unrest including the resignation of the chancellor and the firing of the men's basketball coach, University of North Carolina Wilmington fundraisers said donations jumped 19 percent last year. 

The university reported gifts and pledges exceeding $11.3 million in the budget year that ended June 30.  

During that same time, donations across the country grew by 5.4 percent, according to the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. 

"We continue to be humbled by the support from thousands of donors who believe in UNCW and our mission," said Eddie Stuart, vice chancellor of the university advancement. "Donors continue to support our efforts by directing their gifts to educate students, pursue research, promote innovation and invest in communities across southeastern North Carolina and beyond." 

Tumultuous year 

The increase in donations came during a period of high-profile turnover at the university. 

In March, UNCW fired Buzz Peterson, who had a losing record of 42-82 in four seasons as head coach of the Seahawks men's basketball team. 

University officials said Peterson was fired based on "a community decision" and was owed $965,529.67, based on his contract.  

Then in June Chancellor Gary Miller announced he was leaving UNCW after to lead the University of Wisconsin Green Bay.  

While Miller never specified a reason for his departure, his resignation came amid controversy surrounding the university's decision to suspend a fraternity that had ties to the Board of Trustees and Gov. Pat McCrory's office.  

In May a group of community leaders placed a full-page ad in local newspapers in support of the embattled chancellor.

Former UNCW Trustee Linda Upperman Smith, whose family has donated six figures to the school, said she was worried about the school's image.  

"I am very, very concerned on where this university is going forward and whether I will continue to donate my personal resources there," she said. 

But Thursday, Kevin Williamson, assistant vice chancellor for major gifts, said giving wasn't significantly affected by the departure of Peterson and Miller.

"Honestly, whenever any type of abnormal event happens, people ask questions," Williamson said. "But we've got such a good core here, such a good foundation, that most people are at ease and just really happy with what we're doing." 

Behind the numbers

University officials said giving increased due to a number of factors. 

In March, UNCW held its first-ever 24-hour giving challenge, which raised more than $133,000.  

The annual fundraising number got a significant boost from an endowment that was touted as one of the largest gifts in university history.  

The $2.5 million contribution, in memory of Bill and Barbara Dobo, was added to an existing family endowment that is expected to generate $250,000 a year for the university.  

This summer, the university adopted a three-year strategic fundraising plan that "will position UNCW to more effectively secure much-needed private support," said Stuart, the head fundraiser, wrote in a report for trustees. 

The plan targets five percent annual increases in major and planned gifts, a three percent jump in annual giving and a two percent gain in the number of alumni donors. 

Among other things, the draft plan calls for giving fundraiser access to contact information in the university's emergency alert system and using first-year seminar classes to "educate and inform students of the value of philanthropy." 

The university's fundraising budget, including salaries and benefits, was $3.4 million in 2013-2014, Stuart said. This fiscal year, the budget is set to shrink by $92,000. 

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