To keep pace with an evolving philanthropic landscape, the FIU Foundation recently launched its newest initiative, the Office of Development and Innovation Philanthropy (DIP). The team’s goal: Generate novel, philanthropy-supported solutions to advance university priorities that promote student success and research excellence.
Led by FIU’s first Vice President for Development and Innovation George Corton ’03, MBA ’13, DIP oversees three areas of strategic emphasis that are guiding the future of advancement endeavors benefiting the university and its students: the foundation’s new Live Your Legacy program, inclusive philanthropy, and Miami Tech and Innovation.
“The FIU Foundation aspires to be one of the finest university foundations in the nation, and innovation is imperative to realize increasingly ambitious goals that drive the continuing progress of our FIU,” Corton says.
Living the Legacy You Create at FIU
Philanthropy is not a transactional experience. Beyond FIU, the world of philanthropy is shifting as more and more donors at every level of giving are interested in getting involved directly in the programs they’re supporting.
“People don’t want to just make a gift. They want to see the impact of their gift and know they’re making a difference,” says Laura Padron, associate vice president for development.
The foundation’s “Live Your Legacy” initiative was inspired by Chad Moss ’94, executive vice president of Moss & Associates, who made a $10 million gift to FIU’s College of Engineering & Computing in 2017, naming the Moss School of Construction, Infrastructure and Sustainability. At a foundation event last year, Moss posed a philosophical question to fellow supporters: “Why do we wait to leave our legacy, when we can live our legacy?”
The idea is to offer innovative programming that makes giving more accessible to people at all levels and to work with potential donors to connect their passions to a program or fund at FIU. Whether someone wishes to bolster student success, advance cutting-edge faculty research, create opportunities for social change, be a patron of the arts, or support entrepreneurship, there’s an opportunity at FIU to spark any donor’s passion.
The concept underscores much of the direction in which the foundation is headed.
And the ability to effect lasting change through philanthropy isn’t exclusive to those who can give millions of dollars. The foundation’s unique Pathway to Philanthropist (P2P) program is just one example of how it helps people realize their philanthropic goals earlier than they may have thought possible.
Through P2P, a donor maximizes his or her impact at FIU by providing immediate scholarship or program support while also making a planned gift that creates an endowment with long-term impact. P2P offers donors a unique and flexible approach, providing a meaningful philanthropic experience while fostering a culture of philanthropy and encouraging donors to live their legacy at FIU.
Beyond the giving process, alumni and other donors are being engaged with the university in ways that keep them connected to campus life, including meeting the students and faculty they support; attending university events; and visiting centers, museums and programs that align with their personal and professional interests. Moss leads by example in this aspect: Among his many FIU involvements, he is a member of advisory boards within the College of Engineering & Computing, a member of the FIU Foundation Board of Directors and chair of its Athletics Sub-Committee, and a season ticketholder for FIU Football games.
Supporting Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
On the forefront of inclusive philanthropy, a movement that is gaining momentum in the fundraising field, the FIU Foundation Office of Inclusive Philanthropy (FOIP) falls under DIP and brings together development professionals, community and industry partners from diverse backgrounds to inform, implement and evaluate philanthropic strategy and programming that promotes systemic change.
This includes scholarships and wrap-around support services for students, increased faculty diversity, strong and inclusive advisory board governance, social equity research, cultural competence training and improved health and education outcomes.
“We’re working toward systemic change at the institutional level to support areas of need identified by the university. FOIP is focused not only on eradicating barriers to success for diverse students and faculty at FIU – it is committed to seeking out more philanthropists of color who are interested in investing in the university,” said Maia McGill, founding executive director of the FOIP and senior executive director for foundation relations at the FIU Foundation.
Since FOIP was first proposed in the summer of 2020, the university has received $33 million in philanthropic funding for DEI initiatives, and the team has become a model for inclusive philanthropy efforts in higher education. Recent gifts include $1.5 million from HCA Healthcare to support the New Nurse Educator Program, aimed at increasing the number of diverse nurse educators and nurses entering the field; and $2.5 million from the George and Bernice Cooke Scholarship Foundation for Women to establish an endowment to provide scholarships to nontraditional students.
Fostering Innovation to Expand and Enhance Philanthropic Investment
Alongside the changing philanthropic landscape, Miami is also undergoing a metamorphosis into a tech-minded innovation and entrepreneurship hub which is rapidly transforming the economic, social and cultural ecosystems in the entire South Florida region.
It sparked the Miami Tech & Innovation initiative at the foundation, which for years has focused on fundraising for initiatives at FIU that will enhance tech education to meet the growing need for workforce-ready graduates – such as the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s $10 million naming gift to the Knight Foundation School of Computing & Information Sciences.
In addition, the foundation is generating new concepts that broaden the opportunity for investing at FIU. New areas of engagement include donor-advised funding, impact investing, venture philanthropy, alternative revenue streams and forms of “philanthrocapitalism.” For instance, the organization now accepts donations of cryptocurrency through the online platform Engiven. The foundation is also developing new or uncommon areas of interest for donors to support; for example, a recent gift from mass communications alumna Silvana Massolo ’04 established the first endowment of its kind at the College of Communication, Architecture + The Arts and will provide grants to fellow alumni entrepreneurs in the art and design fields.
“FIU has a record of innovation in many endeavors throughout its history,” said Ady Arguelles-Sabatier, senior executive director of development, innovation philanthropy and leader of the Miami Tech and Innovation initiative. “In that spirit, the foundation is employing new and creative ways to leverage the generosity of philanthropists to help our students and address the challenges of our time.”
Many experts claim we are in the midst of a movement as new philanthropy and business merge. Those within the foundation say they are ready for it. “We have strategic plans in place,” said Arguelles-Sabatier. “We are not merely interested in being a part of the movement, we are looking to lead it.”