Published April 25, 2016
Recently, some members of our faculty have communicated various questions regarding the role of the UB Foundation. I want to take this opportunity to clarify the mission, structure, and operations of the UB Foundation, as well as to address some inaccuracies that have been circulated in some previous faculty communications on this subject.
Role and structure
The UB Foundation, an independent non-profit corporation formed under the New York State Education Law, exists to support the university’s academic mission, enhance its global reputation, and expand its impact. In contrast to charitable foundations that focus on grant-making in support of various charitable interests, the UB Foundation is a grant-receiving foundation whose primary aim is to support a single public institution, the University at Buffalo. In addition to providing aid, scholarships, fellowships, equipment, and other financial support to the university’s students and faculty, the Foundation also supports UB’s educational and research activities and programs by assisting in the acquisition of strategic assets; managing gifts and grants for the benefit of UB; developing and managing real property for the university’s benefit; and providing advice and counsel on philanthropic and fundraising activities in order to build a strong base of university support.
The Foundation’s board is composed of volunteers who are leaders in their respective fields and provide local, national, and global perspective in their service. Additionally, a small number of UB senior leaders serve on the board in an ex officio capacity, and as president, I also represent the university as a voting member.
Function and operations
In providing clarification about the function and operations of the Foundation, I want to begin by underscoring several key points regarding which there are some apparent misconceptions.
1. Compliance with state and federal laws
While—like most foundations at leading public universities—the UB Foundation is a private, independent organization, it operates in full compliance with its affiliation agreement with SUNY as well as with all applicable state and federal laws. As a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization, the UB Foundation is regulated by both the IRS and the Charities Bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office. The UB Foundation has at all times complied with and operated in full conformity with all applicable state and federal laws.
2. Use of public funds
The State contributes no funds to the UB Foundation; nor does the UB Foundation administer any public funds or taxpayer dollars. UBF oversees and administers the expenditure of resources generated through donations and other private revenue sources to ensure compliance with UBF’s tax-exempt purposes. These expenditures are in no way “public funds,” and thus UBF does not administer taxpayer dollars.
The UB Foundation is committed to providing a level of transparency that is consistent with and modeled after best practices in a national context. The UB Foundation’s Charities Bureau filings are made public on the State Attorney General’s website. The Foundation’s website is a robust source of information about its operations, including its audited financial statements and federal information returns (Form 990), which are designed for maximum transparency and are voluntarily made public for the benefit of individuals interested in seeing these documents. It is important to note, however, that the vast majority of resources deposited in the UB Foundation have restrictions placed upon them by donors. Both UB and the UB Foundation have a shared responsibility to steward these resources in accordance with donor wishes, and therefore are obligated to keep these records private if that is the donor’s intent.
More generally, UB’s senior leadership has a longstanding commitment to working with Foundation leadership to educate interested members of the university community regarding the role and operations of the Foundation. Members of university and Foundation leadership strive to be accessible and responsive to all reasonable inquiries on this subject, and university and Foundation leaders have provided the university community with educational sessions about the role of the Foundation since 1962, when UB first became a public institution and the private UB Foundation was founded to support it. As some recent examples of this ongoing commitment, Vice President for Finance and Operations Laura Hubbard has met several times with the Faculty Senate to brief the faculty on Foundation operations and transactions, and Edward Schneider, the Executive Director of the UB Foundation, likewise has held numerous meetings with the Faculty Senate, decanal groups, as well as individual faculty members to clarify the role and responsibilities of the Foundation and its board.
Impact to the university and community
The counsel, support, and stewardship of the Foundation’s volunteers play a key role in providing the financial support and flexibility that advance UB’s ambitious vision for the benefit of faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community. As just a few examples of the visible impact of the UB Foundation’s support, it has played an instrumental role in:
· Acquiring land that has enabled the historic move of the medical school downtown, where it will be at the heart of a thriving health sciences research corridor;
· Managing endowed chairs and professorships that attract more world‐renowned researchers, scholars, and artists to UB and providing resources that support the recruitment of leading faculty across the disciplines;
· Providing key support for student scholarships through donor stewardship and managing scholarship funds;
· Helping to build a 21st century living-learning environment to support the university’s strategic goals in research, scholarship, and educational excellence;
· Enabling the university to meet growing demands for on-campus student housing, like the state-of-the-art Greiner Hall;
· Strengthening the university’s ability to share its world-class permanent art collections, including the university’s Anderson Gallery;
· Supporting the UB and Buffalo Niagara research communities through resources like the UB Technology Incubator; and
· Providing support for special university programming like the Distinguished Speakers Series, which brings to campus internationally renowned leading voices in the academy, politics, arts and letters, and other fields.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it provides a sense of the scope and relevance of the Foundation’s activities in advancing all aspects of the university’s education, research, and public service missions.
I hope, more generally, that this communication provides helpful context and clarification regarding the UB Foundation and its role with respect to the University at Buffalo, as well as the important work it does on behalf of our university and the broader communities we serve. I welcome your input and perspective. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions you may have.