LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) --The University of Louisville Foundation Board members look to restore donor confidence as contributions to the University d rop by $93 million.
Vice President for University Advancement, Keith Inman, said fallout from the recent scathing audit of Foundation finances "really hurt."
"We've never had anything like this affect us," Inman said. "This is the worst."
2017 breaks a seven year run of constant record growth in fundraising by the Foundation. Foundation Board Chair Diane Medley said more than $70 million of the decline was expected after the University ended its business partnership with KentuckyOne Health. The big unknown was how donors would respond to the audit findings of years of unchecked Foundation spending.
A report delivered to the Foundation Board revealed donations to academics are down $21 million or about 25 percent. University officials said because of the audit, three of the Foundation's largest historical donors are now "on the sidelines," possibly waiting to donate until they are confident in how their money might be spent in the future.
Board members sent a message that Foundation spending will no longer be business as usual. They fired Foundation CFO Jason Tomlinson. His departure was preceded by the resignation of University President James Ramsey and the firing of top Ramsey aide Kathleen Smith.
"I mean It is what it is," Foundation Chair Diane Medley said. "Those top three individuals are no longer employees of the Foundation. And as we say before, we are working to change the culture and change the processes that have gone on here."
The low donation numbers confirm donors to the University are keeping a tight grip on their checkbooks. University VP Keith Inman suggested Foundation Board members and others dig into their own pockets and produce some big, high profile donations. He said the positive message could convince other big donors to start the money flowing again and stop the trend of negative headlines.
"In our history here going through the campaign, up until now, we've broken records year after year," Inman said. "So we're not used to reporting these kinds of numbers."
Inman said very few donors have completely severed ties with UofL, suggesting a successful turnaround in fundraising is possible. Inman would not guess on how long that might take.