University of Iowa Eyes Plan to Combine Alumni Association, Foundation

The two nonprofits could soon be merged under one umbrella, as the university looks to cut down on the organizations’ overlapping missions.

For years, the University of Iowa treated its foundation and its alumni association as separate entities. But now UI is rethinking its strategy—and looking to combine the two groups.

The school says the two nonprofit organizations’ similar missions made it worth considering a merger. In a letter to employees of the groups, UI President Bruce Harreld explained that the decision came after months of research into how the two organizations could work together.

“After reviewing the committee’s recently provided report and recommendations, it is my intention to create one, new, unified organization,” Harreld wrote, according to the Iowa City Press-Citizen. “Because of their overlapping missions and aspirations, a unified, comprehensive organization will allow us to better serve the university for decades to come.”

The groups each have records of success. The UI Foundation, launched in 1956, recently topped $2 billion in fundraising in its most recent campaign, according to The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Meanwhile, the UI Alumni Association counts more than 40,000 members on its rolls.

The initiative would move away from the dues-driven membership model used by the alumni association, while continuing to focus on engaging alumni and encouraging volunteer work.

Similar examples of this kind of merger helped along the decision-making process in Iowa. For example, the nearby University of Wisconsin, based in Madison, enacted a similar combination in 2014 after finding a 90 percent overlap in the audience between its foundation and alumni association.

Mike Knetter, the president and CEO of the UW Foundation, credited the merger with increasing the efficiency of the nonprofit.

“Not only do we not regret this, we’re really happy that we made the move that we did,” Knetter told The Gazette.

UI spokeswoman Jeneane Beck emphasized to the Press-Citizen that a similar goal was the driving factor behind the Iowa university’s move—not an attempt to cut jobs.

“This is not about saving money, but about working more collaboratively and better serving our alumni,” Beck explained. “The university is committed to ensuring employees of both organizations have employment opportunities.”

The university is Iowa’s second-largest public university by enrollment, with more than 33,000 students enrolled in 2016.

(Phil Roeder/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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