News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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September 30, 2012

New ISU Foundation president focused on fundraising

TERRE HAUTE — As the new president of the Indiana State University Foundation, Ron Carpenter said he expects to be “less entrepreneurial” and more focused on the foundation’s mission — raising money to support the university.

“I tend to be more driven and focused on the base mission,” said Carpenter, a 1977 ISU graduate who also has served on the Alumni Association board, the foundation board and ISU board of trustees, including as its president. He also played football as an ISU student.

His first year on the job, he intends to focus on rebuilding foundation staff, fundraising for university priorities, partnering with the university and maintaining strong relationships with ISU alumni and community leadership.

“I’m here for the university,” which Carpenter describes as being “on a good momentum roll.”

In 2006, the foundation restructured in an effort to more clearly define it as a separate entity from the university it supports. The new bylaws created a foundation president who was separate and distinct from the university, and Gene Crume took on that role in 2007.

Prior to the change, the ISU president had also served as president of the foundation.

Some suggest the foundation may have operated too independently, and now, leaders of both the foundation and university want to re-establish a closer working relationship. “I’m the person to help make that happen,” Carpenter said Tuesday.

The university and foundation will work more closely, although officials emphasize they don’t intend to change the current organizational structure.

The foundation recently completed its first ever comprehensive campaign, which raised $86.7 million.

The campaign took place during Crume’s tenure; Crume resigned suddenly in April, and no reason was ever given for his departure. Other personnel turnover also has occurred through attrition, reduction in force and consolidation of responsibilities, Carpenter said.

With the comprehensive campaign over, not as many staff members are needed, he said.

But some key positions need to be filled, a priority for Carpenter as he begins his tenure as foundation president. He said he must rebuild the organization “so it’s campaign ready.”

The next comprehensive campaign is expected to tie in with ISU’s sesquicentennial in 2015.

Key positions to fill involve two development officers, someone over athletics fundraising, an executive vice president of advancement and someone over the annual fund. This week, it was announced ISU staff member Rex Kendall is taking over the post of Alumni Association director for the foundation. Kendall has worked in the university’s residential life office for the past 12 years, including as director.

In addition to hiring key staff, the foundation also needs to rein in spending. Some “overspending” during a comprehensive campaign “is natural,” Carpenter said.

While Carpenter says there have been rumors about misappropriation of funds within the foundation, recent audits have been “very clean.”

He noted during a recent university trustee seminar the foundation is “implementing some significant policies around spending caps, credit card use, and so forth.”

While a comprehensive campaign is a few years off, annual fundraising continues. One priority over the next few years will be fundraising for the renovation of Normal Hall, the oldest academic building on ISU’s campus, which will become a Center for Student Success.

Expanding upon his comment that he will be “less entrepreneurial” than his predecessor, Carpenter pointed to several initiatives begun before he became foundation president.

During Crume’s tenure, the foundation, in partnership with a private developer, built and opened a new building in downtown Terre Haute on Cherry Street that houses foundation offices as well as the ISU Barnes and Noble University bookstore.

Carpenter said that endeavor was positive for the foundation, university and the community.

One foundation initiative that hasn’t work out as well was Leadership Wabash Valley, which a few years ago fell under the foundation’s umbrella.  “We’ve since had to back our way out of that,” Carpenter said. The program was supposed to be self-supporting and “it ended up we were underwriting it.”

There was no class this year, and the foundation is hoping another entity, such as the Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce, will take over the program, he said.

Also during Crume’s tenure, the foundation, through Sycamore Foundation Holdings — a nonprofit subsidiary — brought the Terre Haute REX summer collegiate Prospect League to the community.

Because of the drought and extremely hot weather, attendance was down this past summer and it was “not making as much money as you would have hoped by that third year,” Carpenter said.

It will continue another year, he said. “We hope to see it be successful and the weather more cooperative … and staff it appropriately so it’s at least a break even to a profitable endeavor,” Carpenter said. Expenses must be reduced.

Looking toward the future, he said, “We haven’t decided yet if that’s still something we want to pursue.”

He noted the ISU Foundation “is the only foundation in the country that owns a development league baseball team.”

A decision would be made by the foundation president and board. But in addition to the financial bottom line, other factors may come into play, including other benefits the REX brings to the community, he said.

In terms of the financial impact on the foundation, when final numbers are in, both Leadership Wabash Valley and the Terre Haute REX will be “in the loss column,” Carpenter said.

While Carpenter intends to focus on raising money for and supporting the university, he won’t rule out future entrepreneurial-type initiatives, if it meets certain criteria.

Among the questions he’d ask before pitching it to the board are: Does it follow our mission? Does it promote the university? Can it impact alumni engagement? Is it affordable?

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@tribstar.com.

 

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