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2012 Founders & Visionaries - Hawaii's Best

(page 4 of 5)

University of Hawai‘i Foundation

For our University, our Hawai‘i, our Future.

L-R: Bill King (VP for Administration & CFO), Greg Willems (VP of Development), Janet Bullard (VP of Marketing & Communications-Alumni & Donor Relations) and Donna Vuchinich (President & CEO)

Nelson Mandela once said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” It’s a sentiment shared by many, and it’s an idea that helps fuel the fire behind the University of Hawai‘i (UH) Foundation.

“Fundraising for public higher education offers donors an impactful way to change society for the better and for the long-term,” says Donna Vuchinich, the Foundation’s president and CEO. “From supporting research that improves our quality of life, such as cancer research, new pharmaceuticals, urban planning, environmental sustainability, etc., to making a quality public education accessible to all promising students, no matter what their economic background is.”

Founded in 1955 by the UH Board of Regents, the Foundation serves as the central fundraising organization for the UH System, providing a range of professional fundraising services to all 10 UH campuses. And although the Foundation works closely with university leaders to focus fundraising efforts on university and campus priorities, it operates as an independent non-profit that is legally separate from the UH System.

This puts the Foundation in a unique position to work closely with its donors, allowing them to decide how and where their gifts are used, which is something Vuchinich recognizes as one of the reasons for the Foundation’s success.

“Ninety-nine percent of gifts raised are donor-directed,” she says. “We run a tight ship in terms of policies and procedures. This gives our donors peace of mind.”

Ongoing conversations help to establish donor intent. “We work together with donors to explore impactful ways that their giving can be directed and support their passions while meeting university priorities,” Vuchinich says. 

Donors enjoy the personalized attention, and they also find joy in seeing the benefits of their gifts. They may attend celebrations where they can meet the students who receive their scholarships, or they may see the impact of their gifts in other ways. Contributions help transform lives in Hawai‘i and the world through opening the doors for researchers, helping to attract and retain the best faculty and students, improving and building cutting-edge facilities and even in memorializing the remembrance of someone’s life.

The Foundation’s success has grown tremendously since 1955. In its first year, it raised $28,000, and in fiscal year 2012, it has raised $66.9 million to benefit University of Hawai‘i students, faculty, research and programs.  But it’s not planning on slowing. Looking ahead, the Foundation plans to continue working with UH colleagues and donors to grow private support.

“We are committed to helping donors, including corporations, foundations and individuals, make strategic and impactful philanthropic investments,” Vuchinich says. “This will help to build a qualified, versatile workforce for the constantly changing global environment.”


University of Hawai‘i Foundation
P.O. Box 11270 Honolulu, HI 96828-0270
Phone: (808) 956-8849
Toll free: 1 (866) 846-4262


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