Geoffrey L. Stack became the new chairman of the ULI Foundation on July 1, after serving for more than five years as chairman of the ULI Foundation Annual Fund. Under his leadership in that position, contributions to the Annual Fund reached a record total of nearly $1.6 million in calendar year 2013, up 77 percent from 2009. So far this year, more than $400,000 has been contributed to the fund, positioning it to set another record by the end of this year.
Stack, a ULI trustee and a member since 1986, is a managing director of SARES-REGIS Group in Irvine, California, one of the largest, most diversified commercial and residential real estate firms in the western United States. He succeeds James J. Curtis III as ULI Foundation chairman. Stack recently discussed his goals for the Foundation with Urban Land.
What are your priorities for the ULI Foundation?
My top priority will be to strengthen the connection between donor giving and ULI’s content. To encourage members to become donors, they need to be vested in ULI’s program of work. They need to understand that ULI is doing important work and that their support plays a significant role in making it possible. If we can establish and deepen that connection, we can increase philanthropic support.
How do you plan to make that connection?
We’ll do this by enhancing the performance of the three vehicles through which donors engage with the Foundation—annual giving, program giving, and mission giving. Each of the vehicles serves a unique purpose in terms of delivering on the philanthropic mission of ULI. We need to be smarter about the opportunities to interact with donors depending on their motivations to give.
What are your specific objectives for the three categories for giving?
In terms of the Annual Fund, our objective is to increase support by focusing on council-member giving while working to expand the base of donors. I want to strive for 100 percent council-member participation in support of the Annual Fund. Even though council members currently account for an overwhelming share of contributions to the Annual Fund (80 percent in 2013), we view increased giving from this key donor segment as a priority growth opportunity over the next 12 to 24 months.
In addition to focusing on the council-member participation rate, we see an opportunity to enhance contributions by increasing the average gift amount from this important donor segment. Average council-member giving in 2013 was approximately $675, an amount we think we can increase by doing a better job telling the story of what the Annual Fund supports. We will hone our messages to speak to the important role every donor—and every member—plays in providing that support.
A final priority for the Annual Fund will be a focus on expanding the base of donors to include more non-council members. In 2013, fewer than 400 non-council members (less than 20 percent) contributed to the Annual Fund. From a total non-council membership of more than 25,000, we should be doing much better. I believe there is an opportunity to increase non-council-member giving by appealing to the district councils. We want to put a plan in place this year to move this forward.
Our main objective for program giving will be to deliver more support for specific content programs and initiatives. In 2013, we received six gifts ranging from $15,000 to $40,000 from individuals to support specific programs of ULI. This year, we want to increase the number of these gifts from six to 15. This is about a progression of giving. If we can encourage midsize program gifts today, we can leverage those donor relationships to major and planned gifts in the future.
Our primary objective for mission giving is to attract legacy and major gifts that expand ULI’s capacity to deliver on its mission. Curtis carried the planned giving mantle for us over the past two years, establishing key relationships and changing the way many donors view gift support at ULI. We need to carry this effort forward by maintaining those relationships and working to close open conversations.
You’ve talked about the need for a tighter connection between ULI governors and ULI’s activities. Can you elaborate on this?
The ULI governors make up the single most important group of ULI donors. We need to accelerate efforts to establish deeper connections and relationships with individual governors. They need to understand what ULI is doing and why we’re doing it. We need to look for opportunities to involve governors in both the decision making and implementation of programs and content activities. Cultivation is important. Governor events—key to our cultivation strategy—should be the most sought-after activities taking place at ULI.
We will improve our communications to governors, with a special emphasis on opportunities to participate in ULI programs and activities, such as Advisory Services panels and UrbanPlan. We will be creating a new governors brochure this year that will clearly enumerate and rationalize the benefits of the governors program around the core themes of leadership, stewardship, and fellowship.
What did you take away from your time as the Annual Fund chairman that you will apply as ULI Foundation chairman?
I have developed a greater appreciation for ULI as a philanthropic organization. Curtis and his predecessor, Jim Klingbeil, accomplished much in this regard, and I want to build on that to create a broader awareness of how the Foundation makes possible important programs and initiatives. Moving forward, I want to leverage this awareness to encourage meaningful personal connections between donors and the work of ULI. We will work to connect donors to programs to outcomes.