Frequently Asked Questions

The University of Montana Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization that has inspired philanthropic support to enhance excellence and opportunity at the University of Montana since 1950. Learn more information about the UM Foundation below:

Overview - History and Purpose

The mission of the UM Foundation is to inspire philanthropic support to enhance excellence and opportunity at the University of Montana. The passion and belief in that work is reflected in the UM Foundation vision statement: The Lives We Change Will Change the World.

The UM Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization with 501(c)(3) status that supports UM by managing private fundraising efforts, donations and investment of endowed gifts to benefit UM. The UM Foundation operates under an agreement with UM that is reviewed and approved by the Montana University System Board of Regents.

The UM Foundation was established in 1950 by private citizens who desired to support UM. Today, over 30 volunteers serving on the UM Foundation Board of Trustees, several additional volunteers and a professional staff of approximately 60 individuals lead and manage a nonprofit organization separate from UM to foster philanthropic gifts totaling close to $50 million annually that support academic achievement, foster research and elevate intellectual pursuits at UM.

The vast majority of all philanthropic gifts received by the UM Foundation are designated by donors for a specific purpose to help advance the mission of the University. Any gifts received that are not designated by the donor are directed to the Excellence Fund to be designated by the UM President. Some donors choose to designate their gifts to be used at the discretion of the UM President, a dean, the athletic director, or another campus leader.

The UM President communicates the University’s fundraising priorities to the UM Foundation. In turn, the UM Foundation provides guidance to the President on what projects or purposes are most likely to appeal to donors. The UM Foundation invites donors to learn about and invest in the priorities identified by the UM President.

An overview of current fundraising priorities is available at CampaignMontana.org.

Organization and Governance

An institutionally related foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt, independent organization that raises and manages private support for a public institution. Commonplace in public higher education across the nation, institutionally related foundations advance the mission of an affiliated nonprofit organization by seeking and securing private support. The UM Foundation is an institutionally related foundation that seeks to inspire philanthropic support to enhance excellence and opportunity at the University of Montana.

Gifts – charitable donations that may consist of cash, stocks, bonds, real property, and pledges to make future gifts in an estate plan – made to an institutionally related foundation may be deducted from the donor’s state and federal income tax if the donor is an individual or corporation. The amount of the deduction is subject to certain limits under state and federal tax law. Donors should consult with their tax advisor for more information regarding the deductibility of specific gifts.

The UM Foundation is governed by an independent and volunteer Board of Trustees. Trustees bring broad expertise and deep commitment to the mission-critical work of the Foundation. They are passionate about advancing opportunities for others to benefit from the exceptional education offered by UM.

Trustees serve the UM Foundation as defined in the bylaws for three-year terms. They come from diverse backgrounds and share expertise in areas like governance, strategic planning, financial management, institutional investments, marketing and communications, and fundraising. They hold fiduciary responsibility to make good-faith decisions with diligence consistent with the UM Foundation mission.

Approximately 60 professionals are employed by the UM Foundation. They serve the Foundation’s business functions in diverse areas including fundraising, marketing and communications, finance and accounting, investment management, gift and records management, information technology and systems, and human resources. UM Foundation employees serve the Foundation’s mission based on the collective belief in these core values:

  • We are passionate about delivering an exceptional donor experience.
  • We inspire each other to do our best work.
  • We act with integrity and respect.
  • We innovate thoughtfully and with purpose.

Together, the Foundation’s professional staff and volunteers desire to serve every donor seeking to experience the joy of philanthropy through gifts made in support of UM.

The UM Foundation is an institutionally related private foundation that is organized under Montana Code Annotated 35-2-266. The UM Foundation has been granted 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service. The UM Foundation is guided by and adheres to federal and Montana law pertaining to information that must be shared with the public by private corporations and nonprofit organizations. In addition, the UM Foundation elects to share considerably more comprehensive information about our mission, objectives and impact in serving the advancement of the UM mission. The UM Foundation shares information including:

  • Articles of incorporation filed with the Montana Secretary of State’s office;
  • An annual IRS Form 990, the reporting form which allows the IRS and the general public to evaluate the UM Foundation’s operations and finances;
  • The operating agreement with UM that is reviewed and approved by the Montana University System Board of Regents;
  • Annual reports filed with the Board of Regents; the report reflects specific information requested by the Board of Regents to ensure open and continuing communications and alignment of priorities;
  • Annual financial statements produced in annual commissioned independent financial audit;
  • Bylaws established by an independent governing Board of Trustees; and
  • An annual report to provide donors and the general public with data and information about the annual impact of philanthropic giving.

The UM Foundation serves individuals, families, businesses and private foundations that aim to support UM with philanthropic gifts in areas which match their interests, passions or criteria for philanthropic giving. The UM Foundation offers specific benefits to UM and donors alike.

Benefits to UM

  • Provides UM with a critical and significant source of private support that augments other University revenue sources.
  • Ensures a steady source of financial support to the University that is not subject to fluctuations in state revenues or changing priorities of state lawmakers.
  • Enhances achievement of the UM mission through philanthropic gifts that do not reduce or replace state support.
  • Offers investment of a privately funded endowment beyond the low-risk, low-return strategies often mandated by states, thereby increasing the opportunity for greater investment return and revenue available to UM.
  • Distributes $20-40 million to UM each year.

Benefits to Donors

  • Assists donors in understanding the University’s mission, and also supports engagement and evaluation of opportunities for philanthropic giving.
  • Facilitates philanthropic gifts from donors who feel more secure giving to a separate nonprofit organization like the UM Foundation, knowing their gifts are held separate from state funds and will be used in accordance with their wishes.
  • Safeguards the privacy of donors who may not want the details of their personal finances to become a matter of public record and ensures confidentiality or anonymity when requested.
  • Provides appropriate acknowledgement and recognition, informs donors of the impact of their giving, and helps donors experience the joy of philanthropic giving.
  • Offers engagement with professional staff who are passionate about delivering exceptional donor experiences.
  • Ensures oversight by an independent governing Board of Trustees committed to fulfill their fiduciary responsibility, act with diligence and make good-faith decisions consistent with the UM Foundation mission.
  • Fosters opportunities for individuals to engage through their volunteer service and financial contributions (gifts) to help advance the UM mission.
  • Adheres to federal and Montana law pertaining to private corporations and nonprofit organizations. The UM Foundation has been extended tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status enabling donors to deduct their gifts to the extent allowed by law; files an IRS Form 990 annually; operates under an agreement with UM that is reviewed and approved by the Montana University System Board of Regents; annually shares independently audited financial statements; adheres to bylaws; and publishes an annual report.

Why Private Support Matters

Across the country, we have seen a decades-long trend of decreased state funding for public higher education, and unfortunately Montana ranks near the bottom nationally in terms of state funding per student. While the percentage of UM general fund revenues that come from state contributions varies slightly each year depending upon enrollment and the resulting net tuition revenue that is generated, there has been a steady decrease in state support over the past several decades.

In fact, over the past 25 years across the Montana University System (MUS), we have seen the percentage of funding that comes from state contributions decrease from approximately 76% to approximately 40%. This reality places an increased financial burden of the costs of college on students and families, which narrows the funnel through which citizens can gain an education, enter the workforce, and become economically mobile.

Nationally, student demand for higher education has grown steadily since the mid-1970s. During this same period, public investment in higher education has been in retreat. Public disinvestment in public higher education leads directly to increased tuition costs for students and families. Philanthropic support in the form of scholarships is essential to ensure cost isn’t a barrier to college-ready individuals.

Post-secondary credentials offered by colleges and universities are more critical than ever to meet the demands of a changing national and global employment market. Many predict that by 2020 more than two-thirds of all jobs will require a post-secondary credential and yet only 40 percent of adults in the U.S. hold such a credential.

The United States currently ranks thirteenth among developed countries in college attainment rates for young adults. Nearly half the students who begin college in the U.S. don’t finish in six years. And yet, research shows that societies with higher levels of higher education attainment can expect greater civic and social engagement, higher rates of voter participation and volunteerism, healthier lifestyles and less dependence on public assistance. Philanthropic support is essential to ensure campus support systems that foster student persistence and degree completion.

As background, UM general fund revenues include funding contributions received by the State of Montana, tuition and fees collected from students for educational purposes, funds received from governmental or non-governmental entities and sale of goods or services related to educational activities such as literary publications, camps, agricultural products. 

Private philanthropic support provides enrichment opportunities that help students prepare for careers and lives of leadership. Access to internships, study abroad, experiential learning, research opportunities, career development, and similar programs have a profound effect on students’ post-collegiate success.

Philanthropic gifts represent investments that directly impact the lives of students, families and communities for generations. Charitable giving to higher education contributes to the social and economic prosperity of Montana, the country and our world.

The vast majority of philanthropic gifts received by the UM Foundation are designated by donors for a specific purpose.

The philanthropic gifts extended by donors and accepted by the UM Foundation are tremendously impactful for UM and the constituents it serves. The gifts are often designated toward scholarship and other student support, faculty support and campus innovation. In times of campus budget constraints, philanthropic giving is not expected to offset budget challenges, but it does fuel student success and innovations that drive budget recovery more quickly.

No, the UM Foundation and the University of Montana Alumni Association are both independent, nonprofit organizations. The UM Alumni Association is led by a Board of Directors. Its mission is to create and sustain meaningful and lifelong connections between alumni and friends of the University and each other. However, the UM Foundation and UM Alumni Association do frequently collaborate to create meaningful engagement opportunities for UM alumni and donors.

UM Foundation Donors

UM donors are individuals, families, businesses and private foundations that contribute philanthropic gifts to support the mission of UM. Each year, thousands of gifts are received from UM alumni and non-alumni alike. Millions of dollars are received from both Montana residents and out-of-state residents. Students at UM benefit tremendously from this generosity. Every donor gift is significant and helps to maintain and grow UM’s excellence and distinction.

Annually, approximately 14,000 donors make philanthropic gifts totaling more than $50 million in support of the UM mission.

Most donors contribute to UM because they believe that higher education is a pathway to making lives better. Some feel a specific learning experience, a faculty member, or a place on campus helped shape them into who they are today. Some are interested in helping students with financial limitations, in giving to a field of study important to them, in supporting an innovative research initiative, or in contributing to ensure students have access to learning environments to foster their success.

The UM Foundation is committed to maintaining the confidentiality of donor and gift information. In addition, if a donor wishes to remain anonymous, the Foundation is able to honor that request.

The UM Foundation assesses fees on gifts and on the endowments managed by the Foundation. Assessment of fees on gifts and endowments is common practice among institutionally related foundations. The schedule of fees is available on the Foundation’s website.

The UM Foundation receives an annual fee-for-service from UM as outlined in the operating agreement between UM and the UM Foundation which represents approximately 8 percent of the UM Foundation’s annual operating budget. However, the UM Foundation must largely support its own operations and efforts to inspire philanthropic support of UM.

Donors may be assured that any fees assessed on gifts and endowments are used to grow private support for UM in the future. With an annual budget of approximately $7 million, the UM Foundation raises $50-60 million per year for UM.

The UM Foundation is committed to respecting the privacy of all donors, according to their wishes, in perpetuity. This commitment to maintaining confidentiality of all non-public donor and gift information is a pillar of the UM Foundation’s core values to deliver an exceptional donor experience. 

Donor information includes but is not limited to contact information, donation and payment details, planned giving details, and any other personal information the UM Foundation obtains through our relationship with them. Donor records, both hard copy and digital, and other donor information are deemed highly confidential and protected by internal policy. The UM Foundation discloses such information only at the request of the donor.  

The Donor Bill of Rights was developed by the American Association of Fund-Raising Counsel (AAFRC), Association for Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), and the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), and adopted in November 1993.

The UM Foundation also acknowledges the Donor Bill of Rights.

Campaign Montana

Campaign Montana is a seven-year, comprehensive fundraising campaign that will help UM elevate student support initiatives, provide scholarships and fellowships, enhance academic and athletic programs, and enrich the learning environment. To learn more, please visit CampaignMontana.org.

Through Campaign Montana, the University set the goal to raise $400 million in private support by 2020. Between the start of Campaign Montana on July 1, 2013 and the public announcement on October 5, 2018, donors contributed more than $326 million in support of campaign priorities and the UM mission. In early October 2019, the UM Foundation announced that generous donors had pushed the campaign total past the launch goal to $401.3 million. With the significant philanthropic momentum and the private support goal for several priority opportunities yet to be met, the UM Foundation and UM aim to continue to partner with alumni and friends to advance the UM mission through the campaign’s conclusion in summer 2020. To learn more, please visit CampaignMontana.org.

Donors will help UM enhance student success initiatives and drive excellence and innovation in teaching, learning and research. Philanthropy will benefit students in every school and college on campus, as well as Grizzly Athletics and the Flathead Lake Biological Station. In building awareness of UM’s leadership and campus-wide unit fundraising priorities and the impact of donor support over generations, Campaign Montana also supports UM by communicating elements of excellence and distinction to all interested audiences – from donors to community members to families considering UM for their educational investment. To learn more about leadership and unit fundraising priorities, please visit CampaignMontana.org.

Every gift, of every size, from an individual, corporation or grant-making foundation is significant and helps to maintain and grow UM’s excellence and distinction. Students at UM benefit tremendously from this generosity. All gifts received between July 1, 2013 and the conclusion of the campaign in 2020 will count and be recognized as part of Campaign Montana.

Investment in scholarships, professional academic advising, student wellness programs, career services, and enriched academic experiences will positively and dramatically influence persistence to graduation and success for all students. Donors have generously given to support such programs. UM and the UM Foundation continue to invite philanthropic support in these critical areas.

Campaign Montana priorities were established through a collaborative effort led by the UM President and Provost with participation from campus deans and other leaders. At the launch of Campaign Montana in October 2018, additional leadership priorities centering on student success were added to the initial priorities identified at the start of the campaign. For more information about the priorities, please visit CampaignMontana.org.

Most notable about Campaign Montana so far is the growth of privately funded scholarships. Some scholarship gifts were designated by donors to be expended on awards to students in the near-term. Others were designated to establish endowments which will benefit students now and for generations to come. Scholarships benefit students from all different backgrounds studying a diverse range of subjects. They are one vital way to make higher education more affordable and accessible.

Donors have also nearly doubled the number of privately supported faculty positions at UM. Through support for salaries, academic research, and professional development, these positions help UM recruit and retain world-class faculty, enabling students to work with and learn from leaders in their fields. 

Every school and college at UM has also benefited from philanthropic support for academic programs. One example is the Franke Global Leadership Initiative, a four-year 12-credit certificate program available to UM students in every undergraduate major.

Finally, donors have contributed to reshape our campus learning environments through renovation or construction of facilities. Examples include Dennis and Gretchen Eck’s support of the renovation of the Liberal Arts Building and the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation and the Alice Lee Lund Charitable Trust gifts to expand space for early childhood education, counselor education and the Montana Digital Academy.

First, know that a dollar invested in the lives of our students goes a long way. Every gift, of every size, from an individual, corporation or grant-making foundation is significant and helps to maintain and grow UM’s excellence and distinction. Students at UM benefit tremendously from this generosity. All gifts received between July 1, 2013 and the conclusion of the campaign in 2020 will count and be recognized as part of Campaign Montana. Please visit CampaignMontana.org to learn about opportunities to support student success through philanthropic gifts. 

Contact Us

Do you have more questions about the UM Foundation? Contact us at 800-443-2593 or giving@supportum.org.