The right time for a system foundation

June 30, 2016

Mark Hagerott - North Dakota University System Chancellor

Mark Hagerott – North Dakota University System Chancellor

Recently, the State Board of Higher Education and the North Dakota University System hosted an educational summit to discuss the needs of higher education. With support from campuses, legislative leaders, business community representatives and students, we were able to talk about what’s working and what we need to work on, from now until 2030.

In much the same way of thinking, the NDUS Foundation was recently reinvigorated. Board members and university system staff felt the effort at revitalizing the organization would help to increase the fundraising needs of individual campuses.

Now isn’t just the right time to revamp that infrastructure, it’s the best time.

Realistically, the foundation’s purpose is to bolster and complement the campus’ foundations. From an organizational standpoint, this is accomplished by drawing its trustees from throughout the state to build a combination of institutional, legislative and business representation to create a board with varied and unique perspectives. We believe that effort has already proved successful in reinforcing the foundation’s structure.

While the foundation itself was in need of fine tuning after years of inactivity, it is not without its own historical success. Much like the Chancellor’s office serves to support the efforts of our 11 public colleges and universities to enhance the quality of life and economic opportunity of our students, the foundation can provide the same high-level approach to fundraising.

In facilitating those fundraising drives for efforts like the successful “Bakken U” initiative or the upcoming Arts and Humanities summit, the system can be a guiding force that supports and shapes our own future while also allowing for campus autonomy. For instance, Bakken U began as a system initiative, but now encompasses fundraising efforts at the respective campuses. That small bit of direction has given those campuses a bit of a guiding light in that area that they may meet local needs knowing they have systemic support.

Knowing that they have that direction and support creates a better foundation from which each of the campuses can move forward. Having the organizational support in the form of a complementary organization increases the reach and draw of those fundraising efforts, and will help us to capitalize in the future on public/private partnerships recently encouraged by Gov. Jack Dalrymple during his keynote at the Envision 2030 event. That event was made possible by Lumina Foundation funding directed to the NDUS Foundation on behalf of the systemwide effort.

At its most basic, the NDUS Foundation is an organization capable – and made up of trustees who are willing – to leverage the system as a whole for large profile donations or grants that may not have been accessible by, or available to, individual campuses.

Without the foundation, the system could continue forward. With the foundation, the system can move forward better. It isn’t just about drawing donations, but using them for scholarships and recognition of deserving students. It’s about grants for worthy projects created by hard-working faculty and staff. It’s about development and promotion of the NDUS and all the initiatives to come that seek to water the garden of education in our state. And, a system foundation could foster cross-campus collaborative efforts that create new research and opportunity right here at home.

It’s an exciting time, and the best time for the foundation to spring back to life.