The Belo Center for New Media building. Photo courtesy of Moody College.
by Fatima Puri
The constant change in the field of communications has created a funding issue for communication schools trying to stay ahead of the technology curve.
The Moody College of Communication works to stay ahead by getting donations from alumni, corporations and non-affiliated “friends of the college,” or people who never attended the school but believe in what the college is doing and want to support teaching students in the changing communication and media environment.
Michael Wilson, the director of external relations at the Moody College, said “we all have got to recognize it costs us a lot more money to educate students than what we get through state appropriation and tuition and fees.”
Wilson’s department deals with “major gifting,” which are donations of $25,000 or higher. These donations are largely collected through personal contact rather than a donor’s website that facilitates the donation process. Wilson says his staff exists to “ask donors to give back to the college” and external relations is here to “raise money and communicate the value of the college” to possible donors.
Donations are tax-deductible in most cases because the University of Texas is a public university. Donors are told by the department to talk to their tax advisers to obtain any form of deductions. Only cash or property charitable donations of at least $250 are eligible for deductions, according to the IRS website.
Adrian Matthys is the director of development for the Annual Giving program, a branch of the University Development Office at UT. The program consults and solicits services for the College School or Unit in the form of sending mail, e-mail and phone calls to prospective donors for all schools within UT. Annual Giving deals with smaller cash donations, ranging from $1-$10,000 with the average alumni donating $250, which is higher than other communication schools in the nation, said Matthys.
“A higher average not only reflects on the success of the university, but shows that our alumni still think about us.”
The university’s Annual Giving program includes UTalk call centers. UT student workers call alumni to solicit donations.
Shannon Collins worked at one of the call centers her freshman year at UT. She started off as a student caller until she was promoted to a supervisor and trainer. She is now a development specialist at the Moody College. Collins said the donation process for Moody is a pyramid. 80 percent of the funds collected are small donations of $200 or less, but at the top are larger donations, which less people are likely to contribute.
Matthys said the call center tries to identify with people who have started with a small gift and are gradually giving more over the years.
“A lot of the focus when you talk about fundraising goes to giant donors, but all of those big donors have to start off somewhere.”
In the 2013-2014 fiscal year, the Annual Giving program brought in a total of approximately $86,000 for the Moody College through phone calls alone. The total annual gift revenue was $135,000, collected from 1,314 alumni.
Collins said this number was possible due to the colleges “phenomenal” staff and “great” fundraisers.
The donations gathered from these departments are used for support programs for students and their academic endeavors. Wilson said donors can choose where their money goes and the Moody College has been “hot.”
The communication college has received three large donations over the past few years. The $50 million donation from Moody Foundation last year, the $10 million donation from The Richards Group advertising agency to create the Stan Richards School of Advertising and Public Relations and the $3 million gift from married couple Michael and Tami Lang that created the Michael and Tami Lang Stuttering Institute.
The Moody donation is the largest amount donated to any communication college in the nation. UT’s communication school was renamed the Moody College of Communication in honor of the donation, which also funded the construction of the Belo Center for New Media and is being used to create a sky bridge which will connect the Belo center to the old communication building across the street. The gift helped solve “age old problems” the college had been suffering, said Wilson, such as building new infrastructure and programs.
“We are very fortunate because when it comes to brick and order we’re done, there is no more need for building.”
Despite the massive number of donations last year, Wilson thinks the college is lacking the funds to accomplish a “great deal of things,” like preparing students to be the “best and brightest” in their future careers.
We run the risk of not being relevant to companies who can offer jobs to students from other communication schools with better programs, said Wilson.
“I’ll be damn if that’s gonna happen on my watch.”
Wilson believes the college is short of around $25 million dollars to be the “best academically gifted institution in the world.” He is making it his personal goal to host better fundraisers to raise this money. With an additional $25 million, Wilson said the Moody College “will without question be the number one communication college on the face of the earth.”