Legacy of Giving at Leicester
Building on a Fundraising Legacy
The Early Years
The University has long recognised the importance of the support it receives from alumni, friends and local community groups. In fact it was a leading supporter, Dr Astley Clark, fellow doctor Frederick Bennett and other friends who first established a fund in 1918 for the endowment of a University College, which later became the University of Leicester.
Over the next couple of years donations to the College flooded in from individuals, local societies and companies and even local school children. Such was the passion for a peoples’ university that by 1920 over £100,000 had been pledged – an amount that equates to £16 million in today’s money.
The University owes its very existence to these gifts and perhaps the most significant of them all was the donation from Thomas Fielding Johnson, who gifted the land that the University now stands on to Leicester Council for the purposes of setting up a new University College.
In 1945 the University College began receiving its first government grants, but despite the increase in the ratio of government funds to income from other sources over time, philanthropic support has continued to play a major role in the University’s development. This tradition of giving from alumni and friends has passed on through successive generations.
'Elite but not Elitist'
The character of today’s University was formed in the earliest days of the College, when scholarships were established to attract the most able students, and during WWII the University College offered a number of free places to refugee students without the means to pay fees. Today the University is known as being ‘Elite but not elitist’ as one of our own continuing priorities is to widen access to all, regardless of background or ability to pay, together with our record of research and teaching excellence which makes Leicester unique among Britain’s leading universities.
Our success has been achieved with the invaluable support of alumni and friends. For example, their generosity helps to ensure that talented students are able to enjoy the experience of a university education regardless of their background. In the past few years alone, this support has raised over £300,000 for the Annual Fund, which was established in 2004 to raise funds for scholarships and hardship awards.
Success in Challenging Times
Philanthropic support has never been more vital than it is today as universities face the most challenging economic times in higher education in the last fifty years. While universities will always depend on state funding to some degree, the government offered a tangible incentive in 2008 to all UK universities “to promote a culture of individual giving to the higher education sector” through a matched funding scheme.
The scheme - the first of its kind in the UK – ‘matched’ every three pounds donated to the University with an additional pound. The aim was to encourage a new generation of benefactors to step forward and it did, in fact, help the University to raise an additional £1.8 million in vital funds.
Over the years, the University’s fundraising activities have grown and diversified. Important fundraising initiatives have included:
- A £1.4 million fundraising campaign for the original Richard Attenborough Centre from 1996-1998.
- A £1 million Jubilee fundraising campaign in 1997.
- An appeal to support the construction of the award winning £35 million David Wilson Library opened in 2008.
- A £3 million appeal for the new Percy Gee Building, home to the Students Union that was completed in 2010.
The £4m Cardiovascular Research Centre Appeal
The most recent campaign has been a £4 million appeal to help construct and equip the £12.6 million Cardiovascular Research Centre at the Glenfield Hospital. Over £5m has been raised to date with flagship funding from The British Heart Foundation and further significant gifts by The Wolfson Foundation, The Edith Murphy Foundation and leading local donor the David Wilson Foundation.
A successful Public Appeal was launched in March 2011 which raised £1million toward the total. Individuals, groups, associations and a myriad of faith-based groups from Leicester’s diverse communities supported the appeal. The appeal touched the hearts of many people, including friends and family of heart attack patients, and generated a variety of fundraising initiatives from skydives to sponsored golf tournaments. Collections that were held at shopping centres and temples and during a street parade for Vaisakhi generated gifts that arrived by phone, mail, text and online.
Among the community-based gifts were donations from local charity Heartsearch (£23,000), Hindu temples including Lohana Mahajan (£10,501) and the Shree Jalaram Charitable Trust (£5,000). The Gurdwara Shri Guru Harkisham Sahib Charitable Trust (£4,000), Charnwood Lions (£3,000), and the Freemasons of Leicestershire and Rutland (£35,000) also made magnificent gifts. A fundraising dinner, the ‘Heartbeat Ball’, held in Leicester’s cultural quarter in March 2012 attracted 450 guests and raised a record breaking £100,000.
The Development Board
The University is supported in its fundraising endeavours by a Development Board, chaired by Robin Graham-Brown. This group of experienced and committed non-executives work tirelessly in helping the University develop the fundraising strategy and raising awareness and funds for priority projects. The Board is also supported by the invaluable efforts of Appeal Support Groups and fundraising champions who are well represented and connected to communities in Leicestershire, Rutland and beyond.
Current and Future Developments
The Development Team is working closely with a growing number of alumni, individual philanthropists, groups and companies who have shown their interest in backing those University projects that mean the most to them. The University is building upon its successful history of fundraising to support exciting new developments such as:
- Endowments established by benefactors to support research and teaching, such as the Leicester Judgement and Decision Making Research Trust
- Groundbreaking research programmes in Kidney Transplant and Renal Research only made possible by a supporter who wishes to remain anonymous
- The Annual Fund to provide much sought after postgraduate scholarships and hardship awards for students most in need
- The Santander co-operation agreement funding postgraduate scholarships, travel awards, summer schools and a creative writing lecture series
- Endowed and non-endowed Scholarships to attract the very best students
- The £1.5m appeal for The New Galleries Wing for Embrace Arts at the Richard Attenborough Centre
- The £2.5m John and Lucille van Geest Biomarker Facility
- Research to advance Cancer Studies
- £1bn campus development programme including a new Medical Building for training doctors and consultants of the future
To support the University of Leicester and for further information, please contact:
The Development and Alumni Relations Office,
University of Leicester,