TU/e boort vierde geldstroom aan met particuliere fondsenwerving: “Alleen een tranentrekkend verhaal werkt niet”

TU/e taps fourth flow of funds through private fundraising: “Just a sob story does not have any effect”

14 October 2016

The huge donations that have been secured for decades by large Anglosaxon universities such as Harvard, Oxford and MIT are beyond the reach of TU/e. Yet after several attempts in the past the university is now seriously taking action for private fundraising. That fourth flow of funds should make TU/e less dependent on the three other flows. This means that the Eindhoven university is entering a rather new arena, so it has put together a team of three which will focus fully on this so-called philanthropic funding.

Shortly after having taken up office in April 2014, President of the Executive Board Jan Mengelers had a meeting with his three fellow Presidents of the EuroTech Universities. His Swiss colleague Patrick Aebischer from EPFL asked him with sincere interest: ‘Well, Jan, how many millions are you good for?’ Smiling, Mengelers admits that he assumed that Aebischer was inquiring into the total TU/e budget, but that was not the case. “He wanted to know what amount we managed to secure in Eindhoven in terms of philanthropic funding. I had to confess that that amount was probably zero. He told me that his university had succeeded in raising some one hundred million euros and that fifteen years ago, when that track had begun, he had also been dismissed as a fantasizer. Those niggardly Swiss surely would not pay up any money. It appears that things have turned out quite differently.”

For Mengelers it was the first time that he was encouraged in this respect to give some serious thought to this matter. “We must acknowledge that our first flow of funds, the amount we receive directly from the Ministry, will definitely not increase in the future”, says Mengelers. “That is bad news at a time when our student numbers are rising and we nourish many ambitions. And I don’t expect a strong growth in the coming years either for the second and third flows of funds, with which we collect some one hundred million every year now. So we need to tap a fourth flow of funds, in order to make us less dependent on fluctuations and uncertainties within those three other flows of funds.”

Moreover, universities from Anglosaxon countries in particular have shown for many decades how successful fundraising can be. Mengelers: “Here at TU/e we have not seized that opportunity in all those years. In my opinion there are two reasons for this. Donating money to your former university is not really engrained in the Dutch DNA and taxwise the possibilities for making gifts are not truly attractive here either.”

The university as ‘charity’

Herman van Hoeven, who was added to the team from the Innovation Lab, adds: “The Dutch soon find that whatever is done at the universities should be paid for with public funds. Often people are not aware that supplementary funding is required, for a university is not known as a charity.”

Mengelers does not intend at once to create a profile for his university as a charity. “We have to try by means of specific projects to establish relations with all kinds of groups. Not only with the business community, but also with individuals and social institutions. With those we need to build up a kind of partnering, within which we jointly wish to realize a pre-formulated dream. We do so from a technical perspective, while the donating partner is involved because he wants to be significant for mankind. The crux will be in the establishment and the maintenance of those connections. Just going on tour with a sob story and immediately shoving a collection box under people’s noses does not have any effect.”

Will TU/e be doing business with any generous donor? “We are definitely not going to have a big box that can be randomly filled with dreams”, says Director Karen Ali. “The donor and the university will jointly determine what can be realized and how this may be arranged in the best manner possible.”

First friendraising, only then fundraising

For now it is essential that the university should set to work seriously on establishing a sound relation with its almost 40,000 alumni, of which some 30,000 are in the data file. According to Mengelers a lot of hard work is being done already to turn this into a fine network, “although we certainly are not going to bombard recent graduates with blank checks. Building up relations takes time, but in the end we do hope that it will lead to more. An alumnus may also be precisely the person who opens a door for us to a charitable institution, or to an individual who is prepared to donate.”

To be totally clear: it will be a long-term project, says Mengelers. “Whilst the first two years will be devoted mainly to friendraising, our ambitions certainly extend beyond that. At this moment we are slowly nurturing the relation with our alumni, for example by inviting them to engrave their names into our Alumni Avenue. Almost all alumni have good memories of their days here, of their university friends and their groups, but once they leave, we hardly devote any attention to them anymore. That is something we shall address with great efforts, for even with just an annual donation this is a very important group for us.”

Where does TU/e wish to be in five years in terms of fundraising? “My view of that has become slightly more realistic, after having been brought up to date by bureau Nassau about their experience with Wageningen”, Mengelers explains. “There they once clamoured: ‘We want to secure one hundred million within ten years. That was toned down to fifteen million, which they managed to realize eventually within three to five years. Let that be our aim as well. It will be my successor who will reap the first fruits of this, though.”


TU/e’s flows of funds in 2015

First flow of funds: Government grant: 188.7 million
Tuition and examination fees: 23.3 million
Second and third flows of funds:-‘Work commissioned by third parties’: 95.7 million (actually the second, third and ‘fourth’ flows of funds): divided into national authorities: 23.6 million, international authorities (EU): 29.2 million, NWO/KNAW (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research/Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences): 15.5 million; other non-profit: 8.3 and businesses etc.: 19.1 million.


(Source: Annual report TU/e)

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