092713 um students sd

University of Montana students walk around the Oval between classes on in September 2013.

SOPHIE DANISON/Missoulian

The University of Montana closed its 2014 fiscal year with a bang, shattering its old fundraising record by more than $16 million while improving its ability to recruit students with additional money for scholarships.

From June 30, 2013, through June 30, 2014, the school received donations totaling $53.7 million, breaking the old record of $37.4 million set in 2008.

Last fiscal year, the school raised $20.7 million.

“Last July, I don’t think I would have anticipated this, though I did anticipate further growth,” said UM President Royce Engstrom. “To close the year with $53.7 million was a wonderful surprise.”

Beth Hammock, associate vice president of marketing and communications with the UM Foundation, said 13,598 gifts were received during the fiscal year, surpassing the 12,775 gifts received last year.

The larger donations included $2.4 million from the Washington Foundation, $1 million from the Osher Foundation and $5 million from an anonymous donor.

Engstrom said donors have responded to the school’s Invest in Student Success campaign. More than 275 gifts this year topped $10,000 in value while 11,786 donations were less than $1,000.

“This demonstrates that people are investing in the university in record amounts and numbers,” Engstrom said. “They’re excited about the direction of the university and the accomplishments of our faculty and students.“

Over the past two years, Engstrom has said the university needed to improve its ability to provide scholarships for both academic performance and financial need. Scholarships are a powerful tool when recruiting and keeping students, and the competition among regional universities is stiff.

With a record fundraising year in hand, UM will provide $5.2 million in scholarships next year, $1 million more than the year before.

“The world is becoming more competitive in terms of recruiting and retaining students, and scholarships are an increasing part of that picture,” Engstrom said. “The contributions we’ve received are very gratifying and they will help tremendously.”

From 2012 to 2013, private support for education increased nationally by more than 7.4 percent. Engstrom credited a recovering economy for part of this year’s gains.

But he also credited the teamwork between the UM Foundation and the school for this year’s fundraising success, along with the work of faculty and students.

The additional funds will provide new scholarships and bolster program opportunities, including those at the Davidson Honors College and the Global Leadership Initiative.

It will also help make building improvements aimed at student success, including the Student Athlete Academic Center and a new learning commons located on the ground floor of the Mansfield Library.

Scott Whittenburg, vice president of research and creative scholarship, said the money also included $9 million in private grants. The grants help fund faculty research.

Reporter Martin Kidston can be reached at 523-5260, or at martin.kidston@missoulian.com.

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