Do dual UConn basketball titles = more donations?

The dual NCAA championship titles won by The University of Connecticut's men's and women's basketball teams haven't yet translated into a jump in gifts, the school's primary fundraising arm has reported to UConn's governing board.

By April 14 -- one week after winning the titles -- The UConn Foundation reports it had raised $34 million so far in the fiscal year that ends June 30 -- $7 million less than it had by this time last year.

"Overall, fundraising is down 17.2 percent," foundation President Josh Newton wrote to the UConn Board of Trustees this week.

But foundation officials, hoping to take advantage of the national spotlight to raise money for the state's flagship university, aren't worried.

Brian Otis, vice president for development at the UConn Foundation, said during an interview Monday that more donations are in the works but have not yet been finalized.

"They don't go into our numbers until we get those commitments in documentation," he said. "We have got several six-figure-plus gifts" in the pipeline.

In addition to the anticipated increases in donations, the reported shortfall from where UConn was last year may also be narrowing.

The foundation reported in February, before the March Madness basketball tournament began, that the school was $8.5 million behind where it was at that time last year. On April 14, it was $7 million behind.

UConn has struggled for years to boost donations, according to a review UConn paid for of its fundraising history.

"UConn underperforms peers in all areas of giving except parent contributions," the 2011 report by consultants McKinsey & Co. said, noting that UConn's fundraising efforts are understaffed, and that current fundraisers underperform when compared with peers.

About Jacqueline Rabe Thomas

Jacqueline won two first prizes from the national Education Writers Association for her work in 2012 – one in beat reporting for her overall education coverage, and the other, with Keith Phaneuf, in investigative reporting on a series of stories revealing questionable monetary and personnel actions taken by the Board of Regents for Higher Education. Before coming to The Mirror, Jacqueline was a reporter, online editor and website developer for The Washington Post Co.'s Maryland newspaper chains. She has also worked for Congressional Quarterly and the Toledo Free Press. A graduate of Bowling Green State University, Jacqueline is in the public policy master’s program at Trinity College. E-mail her at jrabe@ctmirror.org.

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