Private donations made to the University of Wyoming help the institution build upon the support it receives from the state, which constitutes the majority of the university’s funding.

UW received $52.7 million from private donors in fiscal year 2017, which ended June 30. This figure is significantly less than fiscal year 2016’s $63.1 million, but the 2016 figure includes $15.5 million raised specifically for the Mick and Susie McMurry High Altitude Performance Center.

“Coming off a really strong year as we had the previous year, you’re always concerned about in terms of keeping the momentum going,” said Ben Blalock, president and CEO of the UW Foundation.

“ … This year, we really have not had a specific project we have been working on, so to get north of $50 million, and to actually see our five-year average increase, we’re just very pleased.”

Fiscal year 2017 fundraising outperformed fiscal years 2015 and 2014 as well — but not fiscal year 2013, during which the UW Foundation raised $55.8 million, the most it ever raised in a single year at the time.

Fiscal year 2015 represented a relative low point in private donations for the university, being the only year in the last half decade to not clear $50 million.

“We’ve now had a series of exciting years where we’ve seen donor support grow and stay consistently high,” Blalock said. “ … The university is on a very good path.”

Roughly 90-95 percent of private donations are restricted, meaning donors designate how they want UW to spend the donation, such as by supporting the School of Engineering, The School of Energy Resources or the College of Arts and Sciences, Blalock said.

“These dollars have enormous impact,” he said. “But they’re also in key areas where the donors have shown a specific area of interest.”

UW President Laurie Nichols’ enthusiastic support of private giving has been a “game changer” for the UW Foundation, Blalock said.

“She is putting a real emphasis on private support for the University of Wyoming,” he said. “So, this is a very important message for the university to have from the president’s office.”

In a news release Tuesday, Nichols says the five-year strategic plan, developed throughout the past year and awaiting approval by the Board of Trustees, will provide alumni and other donors “exciting opportunities” to support UW.

“During this year of transition and strategic planning for UW, I am so encouraged to see the unwavering support coming to our school from over 20,000 donors,” Nichols says in the release. “Private giving to UW grows in importance each and every year, more so as we see declining state revenues … This year further signals that private giving to UW is solidly in place.”

However, private donations cannot soften the blow of the more than $40 million in cuts to UW’s state block grant the university had to implement before fiscal year 2018, Blalock said.

“To say that it lightens the load of budget cuts from the state would misstate how private giving supports the university,” he said. “(Private giving) provides the margin of excellence for the university, to build upon state support, so the budget cuts the university is going through are very real and these dollars do not lighten the load.”

Throughout the past five years, private donations have contributed to projects across campus, including the Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center, the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, the High Bay Research Facility, the Tier 1 Engineering Initiative, the Literacy Research Center and Clinic, the Center for Advanced Oil and Gas Technologies, the Hess Digital Rock Physics Lab, the Center for Innovation and Flow in Porous Media, Arena Auditorium renovations and, of course, the Mick and Susie McMurry High Altitude Performance Center.

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