UH Foundation donations dip for Big Island colleges

HILO — Hawaii Island public colleges pulled in more than $3.75 million in private donations in fiscal year 2017 through the University of Hawaii Foundation, down from about $4.87 million in fiscal year 2016.

HILO — Hawaii Island public colleges pulled in more than $3.75 million in private donations in fiscal year 2017 through the University of Hawaii Foundation, down from about $4.87 million in fiscal year 2016.

The foundation attributes the drop partly to last year’s presidential election, which it said can tie up donation dollars. It’s also currently working to fill two vacant positions on Hawaii Island by this fall, which it hopes will bolster local outreach, said Donna Vuchinich, UH Foundation president and CEO.

The foundation is a nonprofit that raises private donations for the UH system.

“Year over year it fluctuates, especially in years with a national election,” Vuchinich said. “A lot of money goes to political campaigns. … But we try to look at trends over the years and always try to look at an upward trajectory.”

“We’ve always been very grateful for the Hilo community and their support of the university,” she added.

About 99 percent of 2017 gifts were “donor-directed,” according to the foundation, meaning donors decide how their gifts will be used.

Some also are “multi-campus” gifts and are not earmarked for a specific campus. Last fiscal year’s multi-campus gifts totaled $9.95 million, down from $14.67 in fiscal year 2016.

Statewide, giving overall increased from $66.08 million in fiscal year 2016 to $77.6 million this past year, which the UH Foundation told other media outlets could be a result of the improving economy.

UH-Hilo garnered $3.37 million of the Big Island’s 2017 donations. About one-fourth — $873,964 — is earmarked for faculty and academic support. Another $711,556 is earmarked for research and $666,842 for student aid. Remaining funds are divvied between the athletic program, chairs and professorships and special programs, among other things.

Hawaii Community College received $380,659 in fiscal year 2017. Of that amount, nearly half — $181,012 — is earmarked for student aid. Another $116,791 is designated for special programs, and remaining funds are largely allocated to faculty and academic support.

New gifts this year included a new endowment at the Imiloa Astronomy Center in honor of the late Ilima Piianaia and two endowed scholarships for agriculture students at UH-Hilo and HCC in honor of the late state Rep. Clift Tsuji.

UH-Hilo received 2,009 gifts overall in fiscal year 2017, down from 2,028 the year prior. Hawaii Community College received 765 gifts, up from 532 the year prior.

Systemwide, the largest portion of donations — $25.5 million — came from individuals. Another $16.28 million came from corporations and $19.3 million from foundations. Alums gave $8.9 million and faculty and staff, $3.8 million.