Estate gifts, Final Four run lead to record donations for Wichita State

08/03/2013 1:11 PM

08/06/2014 2:32 AM

A flood of estate gifts and the ongoing tide of pride in the Shocker men’s basketball team led to a record year of donations to Wichita State University.

The WSU Foundation’s fiscal year 2013 closed with a three-year record $22.5 million in total giving, and record contributions to a variety of campus organizations, said Elizabeth King, WSU Foundation president and CEO.

The Shocker Athletic Scholarship Organization received $4.7 million, up from $4.2 million last year. SASO provides scholarships and academic equipment for WSU athletes.

The university’s Annual Fund for Excellence, which provides unrestricted dollars for the university’s academic colleges, received $650,000. The WSU Alumni Foundation received $570,000, and the university’s radio station, KMUW, topped $1 million for its best year ever, King said.

Nearly $5 million came from 19 estate gifts, with the College of Engineering benefiting the most due to a gift from Velma Wallace, wife of former Cessna Aircraft leader Dwane Wallace. Velma Wallace, who died last year, gave the university $6 million, of which about $3.5 million went to the engineering college. The university received half the total gift in fiscal 2013 and will receive the remainder in fiscal 2014.

The Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences was second. Its largest gift was $615,000 from the Dorothy S. Froning Revocable Trust.

The total market value of the WSU Foundation's endowment is about $230 million.

Darron Boatright, senior associate athletics director for external operations, said the Final Four appearance by the men’s basketball team played a major role in the record donations to SASO. The majority of SASO donors are season ticket holders to Shocker athletic events. They are required to make a SASO donation ranging from $325 to more than $20,000 a year for tickets to men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball and some parking privileges for baseball. This year, donations rose at all levels, and WSU has retained 90 percent of its season ticket holders and donors.

“I think you can directly correlate the high rate of retention with the success of the program and the vibe that the program is on the upswing,” Boatright said. “When you have that much retention, when you’re selling 9,000 season tickets a year, then people are enjoying what they’re seeing.”

The Final Four appearance also had an impact on the Annual Fund for Excellence. Money for the fund is raised by student phone solicitations for their colleges.

“The ride that all of our alums and friends had for the university clearly was evidenced in the giving patterns,” King said.

But the biggest key to the record donations was the number of estate gifts WSU received during the year, which is something the university can’t predict. Most of the major gifts had nothing to do with the Final Four, King said.

Research shows that strong recognition in athletics must be consistent over time to have an impact on a university’s support from major gifts, King said. It takes continued high-profile postseason play, not just a one-time experience.

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