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Giving a big hand to UCL’s donors – UCL’s new Donor Wall is unveiled

ucypnmb23 May 2019

Written on behalf of Lori Houlihan, Vice-Provost (Advancement)

Next time you walk through the Wilkins Terrace, look out for a striking new piece of public art literally reaching out to you. The installation, featuring over 60 hands individually cast in bronze and aluminium, is UCL’s new Donor Wall – a high-profile celebration of the enormous role that philanthropy plays in supporting our community and delivering our long-term ambitions.

Close up of the new Donor Wall in Wilkins Terrace

The hands belong to members of UCL’s Circle of Benefactors, a diverse group of our most generous donors who give to us at the £1m+ level, plus other leading supporters of UCL. They include TV presenter Nick Ross representing the Jill Dando Fund, AI pioneer Demis Hassabis representing DeepMind, Founder and Executive Chairman of Iceland Food Sir Malcolm Walker, Hong Kong-based alumna Cathy Lee, and alumni Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas – plus many more individuals, companies, organisations, charities, trusts and foundations from around the world.

The Wall was created by Slade School alumna Dr Sarah Fortais and you can find out more about her concept in this video.

We officially unveiled the Donor Wall last week at a wonderfully celebratory event to demonstrate to our largest donors how much their investment and partnership matters to UCL.

Unveiling the Donor Wall: (l to r) Angharad Milenkovic, Director of Development; alumnus and donor George Farha; artist Sarah Fortais; President & Provost Michael Arthur; Vice-Provost (International) Nicola Brewer

Guests included UCL alumnus George Farha, whose name will be familiar to all of us thanks to his outstanding and very diverse support of UCL, which ranges from funding the George Farha Café to supporting scholarships and posts in areas including women’s health, social justice and the built environment.

Recalling his student days, he commented that UCL is “a lot bigger and quite a bit shinier” than in his day, adding that “the thing that has remained the same is UCL’s commitment to its radical roots.”

The event was also an opportunity to update guests on the progress of the It’s All Academic Campaign, to which they have contributed significantly. The Campaign total now stands at £525 million and is set to reach its target of £600 million in 2020 – one year ahead of schedule.

Students who have received a scholarship thanks to philanthropy reveal the latest Campaign total

These huge sums of money are hard to visualise but what we can see very clearly is the tangible impact they are having. Thanks to philanthropy, hundreds of students have received life- changing opportunities through scholarships. A major new home for our neuroscience research bringing is rising up on Grays Inn Road, bringing UCL’s Queen Square Institute of Neurology and the hub of the UK Dementia Research Institute together under one roof.

Nick Ross marks the Donor Wall unveiling on behalf of the Jill Dando Fund, which supports the UCL Jill Dando Institute

Generous donations have catalysed the creation of institutes and research programmes which harness UCL’s multidisciplinary excellence to lead the way in artificial intelligence, mental health, mission-oriented economics, early years education, and much more.

The success of the Campaign, and the breadth and diversity of Circle of Benefactors members, is a great tribute to Lori Houlihan, Vice-Provost (Advancement). Under her leadership, UCL has grown to become one of the UK’s highest performing fundraising universities and this Campaign has broadened and globalised our supporter base significantly.

Celebrating transformational philanthropy

Unfortunately, due to ill health, Lori couldn’t be at last Thursday’s event to see the fruits of her astute and creative leadership. I was privileged to step in on her behalf. While she is recovering, she has asked me to look after OVPA and I am happy to be working with her brilliant team in the interim.

I know that Lori would want me to thank the whole UCL community, whose support has been vital to making the Campaign the great success it is. The Donor Wall provides a highly visible testament to how far UCL has come in establishing fundraising as a university-wide endeavour and a crucial enabler of our academic mission.

A guide to working with your development office

ucyolma16 March 2018

With the It’s All Academic Campaign for UCL now well into its second year, I thought this would be an opportune time to recap the ways in which my team – the Office of the Vice-Provost Development (OVPD) – can support you with managing the donors and donations you are already working with, and help you to expand the pool of potential donors with whom you are engaging.

Campaign update

At the end of February 2018, the It’s All Academic Campaign was £374m towards its target of £600m. We are committed to engaging a community of supporters and mobilising them to become ambassadors, volunteers and donors. These goals and actions, fully support the UCL2034 priorities.

Professor Nick Fox, who helped to establish the UCL Dementia Retail Partnership, which uses the plastic bag levy to support UCL research

Recent successes in the last two months include a £5m donation from a UK foundation and a £1.2m legacy gift, both to support neuroscience capital projects. This month we are announcing a donation of £1m that has come from Baillie Gifford to support the UCL Institute for Innovation and Public Purpose (IIPP), directed by Mariana Mazzucato, to kick-start their training, research and public engagement activities related to ‘mission oriented innovation’. A number of other high level donations are in the pipeline and relationships with some significant global philanthropists are progressing promisingly.

We are honoured when people choose to donate to UCL, in November we celebrated over 55 donors who have given £1m+ at an exclusive Circle of Benefactors event.  Being able to mark their generosity and say thank you to so many people was a real privilege. We intend to create a lasting legacy of philanthropy at UCL, our new donor recognition wall in the Wilkins Terrace will ensure that future generations of students, staff and alumni will know who UCL’s benefactors are. We are also very excited to be choosing a bespoke design for this project from a competition that was open to Slade and Bartlett students.

Keeping the UCL-donor relationship strong

Ultimately, OVPD is here to ensure that philanthropic giving to UCL is growing. That we fulfil our potential to secure funds, that due diligence around donations is carried out, that donations are processed and managed effectively, and that the relationship with each donor is stewarded consistently and to a high standard.

Working hand in hand with the academic community I am proud of the relationships we have built up together. The partnership of staff across UCL is crucial as a donor can have multiple entry points into UCL. In many cases my team identifies people or organisations who are likely to be interested in funding a specific area that UCL excels in, or in supporting UCL itself, and works to take that relationship forward. In other cases, a potential donor develops a relationship with an individual or department and expresses an interest in supporting their work in some way. For example, a patient treated by one of our leading academic clinicians, an alumnus who becomes engaged with a particular piece of work being carried out by their old department, or even someone who visits an event or sees a report in the media and becomes fired up by what UCL is doing.

Contact us early

My main message is – bring my team in early when you become aware that someone may be interested in giving. The process of developing a proposal that will meet the needs of both the donor and the recipient can have hidden complexities. It needs to be compelling, realistic and fully rounded, so that the donation does not incur hidden costs, and we need to be confident we can fulfil the donors’ wishes.

Managing your donation

Lord and Lady Bearsted meet with students at the scholarships and bursaries reception; an event to highlight the important and significant impact of philanthropy at UCL.

The process of accepting a philanthropic gift can also have multiple layers; UCL policy states that gifts over £10,000 must be processed through OVPD and has a gift agreement in place. We are also happy to process or advise on gifts below that. I want to stress that OVPD does not take or redirect any slice of this funding – the entirety of the donation is passed through to you. There are a number of ways to ensure that a donation makes the most difference, such as GiftAid in the UK. There are also tax efficient giving opportunities in place in the US, Canada and Hong Kong too, see our giving page for more information.

Engaging with alumni

Developing and strengthening our worldwide community of alumni is also a highly important part of what OVPD does. Again, partnership with people and departments across UCL is crucial. An engaged alumni community is one of the most valuable assets a university can have.

The range of events and opportunities we offer alumni is varied and their number growing. I was with Susan Collins, Slade Professor and Director of the Slade School of Fine Art at an alumni event in New York this week to celebrate the opening of an exhibition at the Met Breuer Museum.  The exhibition features the auto-icon of Jeremy Bentham at its heart and was a wonderful opportunity to meet alumni old and new, and some of the volunteers of the UCL Friends and Alumni Association.

So far we have secured over 90,000 alumni volunteer hours towards the Campaign target of 250,000 hours.  UCL alumni can find inspiring volunteering opportunities and access professional development resources on our Alumni Online Community portal. These brilliant individuals may well want to give financially, but there are many other ways in which they can support us – by acting as advocates, supporting current students and recent graduates with mentoring and internships, volunteering within alumni clubs in their area, and many more. Many faculties and departments at UCL have fabulous alumni programmes in place; if you would like to explore how you can start or develop alumni activity in your area, please do contact us.

Sign up for regular updates

My office now produces a regular newsletter, sharing highlights of our activities and Campaign updates as well as tips and learnings from successful fundraising projects. We’d love to keep in touch with you and let you know how you can get involved with the Campaign, so please do email campaign@ucl.ac.uk with your full name, job title and UPI (on the bottom left hand corner of your staff card).

Philanthropy is exciting because it can do things and reach places that other funding streams simply can’t manage. UCL is increasingly on the radar of the world’s great global philanthropists who are looking for partners with whom they can pursue their ethos of “change not charity”. By working together we can offer them not just an unbeatable opportunity to make transformational change in the world but also an unbeatable donor experience; the two combined will position UCL as one of the preeminent partners for philanthropy on the international stage.

You can see more information about how to work with us on our website.