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University at Buffalo Foundation, Inc.

P.O. Box 900
Buffalo, NY 14226-0900
Phone: (716) 645-3013
Fax: (716) 645-3475
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Frequently Asked Questions

What role does the University at Buffalo Foundation play on behalf of the university?

The mission for University at Buffalo Foundation Inc. and Affiliates (UBF) is to support the activities and programs of the University at Buffalo (UB). UBF assists UB in achieving its goals, including those related to fundraising, endowed scholarships, faculty research and scholarship, recruitment of top talent to the university and the development of UB’s three campuses, with a focus on enhancing the university’s academic and research programs.  

Specifically how has the UB Foundation supported the University?

Over the years, the UB Foundation has played an important role in helping UB achieve its goals for the benefit of faculty, staff, students, alumni and the community.  This support has had a very positive impact.  For example:

  • UBF manages the university’s endowment and assures the privacy of donors, many of whom prefer to have their gifts managed by a private entity.
  • UBF supported UB’s construction of new student housing by securing the loans for construction and handling other important financing arrangements.
  • UBF supported the UB 2020 strategic plan and by securing the property to relocate the UB School of Medicine and Biosciences to downtown Buffalo.  Ownership of this property has since been transferred to the university.   
  • UBF managed the university’s acquisition of the M. Wile building located in downtown Buffalo. UB community programs are now offered in the building, renamed the UB Downtown Gateway.
  • UBF arranged for construction of the Commons and University Bookstore on the UB North Campus.  
  • UBF helps manage UB’s Technology Incubator on Sweet Home Road, which currently is home to nine start-up companies and has graduated more than 45 companies since its inception.
  • UBF owns and helps manage for UB’s benefit UB’s Anderson Gallery, which provides students with hands-on experience in arts management and museum studies and which is a vital part of the Western New York art scene.
  • UBF helps manage the discretionary funds for individual schools and units.  Hundreds of Western New Yorkers are hired by the schools through this funding.
  • Generally speaking, UBF provides the university with financial flexibility enjoyed by private colleges and universities.  

Do other campuses in the state and around the U.S. have the support of foundations?

Yes. Campus-related foundations that operate as private entities, like UBF, are a best practice nationwide because they provide colleges and universities with benefits widely believed to be very helpful in achieving their mission.   

Additional background about campus-related foundations and their functions is available on the websites of the Association of Governing Boards of Colleges and Universities and CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education).

The benefits to colleges and universities include: shared commitment to university mission and goals; financial stability and sustainability; assistance in the commitment to academic access and educational excellence; institutional integrity; outreach and advocacy; proper accountability; coordinated planning and business processes; leverage, flexibility and nimbleness in the procurement of goods and services and the borrowing of funds to support major university projects and initiatives; and securing donor trust.

How transparent is UBF?

UBF is more transparent than is required by New York State or federal law.  

Each year, UBF publishes on its public website an audited financial statement provides an extensive summary of UB’s investments, expenses and revenues.   UBF’s financial statements for the past 15 years are available for public viewing on our website at www.ubfoundation.buffalo.edu/about/financial-information.    And UBF’s 990 tax forms are made public in accordance with IRS rules. Both sources provide info about UBF’s mission, programs and finances.

UBF’s business practices are consistent with best practices among campus-related foundations nationwide.  UBF is audited each year by an independent public accountant and periodically by federal and state authorities, and UBF conducts business consistent with state and federal law.

Why isn't UBF a public entity?

When the formerly private “University of Buffalo” became a public institution back in 1962 all leaders involved at the time felt it was in the best interest of public UB to establish a private entity, independent of the public side of UB, to administer private support. 

Hence, University at Buffalo Foundation Inc. was created as a private entity as a condition of the merger of private UB into public SUNY.  

UBF accepts funds from the private sector. Protecting the privacy of UB donors is one of UB’s and UBF’s guiding principles. We do not disclose gift agreements or other personal financial information about donors; the confidentiality of this information is protected by New York State law.

In 2011 the New York State Supreme Court ruled that UBF is not a public entity. This public/private separation benefits UB.  The main benefits to UB are these: 

  1. UBF’s main purpose is to manage and invest private support and, with the protections of a private entity, UBF can do so while properly leveraging these resources and maximizing investment returns for the benefit of UB.
  2. As a private entity UBF has the ability to protect a donor’s personal, private information. UBF provides this assurance to all donors.
  3. UBF is held to a fiduciary responsibility to represent the proper interest of donors, often in perpetuity.  Donors want assurances that their gifts will be utilized as they’ve directed and won’t be appropriated for another use by the public side of UB. Being able to provide this assurance is protective to donors and helps UB raise private funds. If donors thought there was a chance that their personal information could become public, they would be reluctant to make financial gifts to benefit UB students, faculty and academic programs.  
  4. UBF gives UB a degree of financial flexibility, and the ability to efficiently leverage its resources, to facilitate the execution of certain transactions, such as the purchase of real estate and the procurement of certain products and services. These transactions are made using unrestricted funds available in UBF for the benefit of UB and its various schools and units. These transactions are executed according to UBF, UB and SUNY guidelines. 
  5. UBF, as a private entity, provides a vehicle to engage talented alumni and other private sector individuals who might otherwise not be engaged with UB. This allows these individuals to invest their time, talent and treasures for the betterment of UB. 

Please note that UBF’s endowment spending policy follows industry best practices, and a general statement on endowment spending is located on the UBF website (www.ubfoundation.buffalo.edu/investments).   

In general, endowment spending is approximately 5 percent of average principal value.  Spending too much from endowments is not consistent with donor expectations or New York State law. 

How many employees does UBF have?

UBFA has 28 employees and 9 volunteers.  None of the other UBF affiliates have employees but they do have additional volunteers. However, as we discussed above, UBF supports 600-700 individuals, including students and part-time workers, who are employed for UB within the various schools and units across campus. Some may also receive pay from UB sources. These schools and units have certain discretionary funds administered through UBF and they decide to use these funds to compensate these employees.  Sometimes the schools or units use donor funds given to them for this purpose.  Sometimes they use funds from other revenue streams, such as revenue from programs or services. If a school receives a donation for a specific purpose, such as a scholarship, this revenue cannot be used to hire and pay employees.

Because schools and units are able to hire students using discretionary funds processed by UBF, hundreds of students each year gain valuable work experience that will help them compete for jobs or graduate school placements after they graduate from UB.  

Does UBF set the fundraising priorities for the university?

UB sets priorities for its fundraising; UBF does not.  These priorities often include endowed chairs, professorships, fellowships, facilities and scholarships.  Endowed faculty positions and endowed scholarships are a priority of President Tripathi’s administration.

Donor preference dictates the creation of scholarship funds.  Typically, a donor is very focused on where he or she wants the money to be utilized, especially when large donations are made for UB. If a donor wants to fund scholarships, UB works with the donor to have the funds designated to scholarships.  UB also supports initiatives to raise funds for scholarships.  For example, UB’s annual Scholarship Gala raises hundreds of thousands of dollars just for scholarships. UB donors have provided generous support to our students.  In 2013, nearly 2,000 donors gave just under $3 million to student scholarships.  

How does UBF handle unrestricted funds and determines where that money will go?

There are two types of unrestricted funds.  There are unrestricted funds that are available for the general needs of UB and there are unrestricted funds that are available for the general needs of the various schools and units at UB.

At the school and unit-level, the deans or department chairs decide where unrestricted funds are spent.

At the university-level, the unrestricted funds go into UB’s financial plan. For the 2013-14 fiscal year, about $12 million in unrestricted funds is contributed to UB’s $600 million annual operating budget. This makes up about 2 percent of the university’s total operating budget.  An annual operating budget is an estimate of the revenue the university anticipates receiving, along with a listing of all estimated costs and expenses that will be incurred in the operation of the university over one fiscal year.

Why does UBF have affiliates?

As noted in the published audited financial statements and on the website, UBF is comprised primarily of seven separate affiliated entities.  Each entity was formed to administer selected activities and has a board with expertise to help with these specific activities.  This structure meets the diverse needs of UB and is an effective way for each affiliate to focus on achieving specific objectives and assure that they are supporting the university’s mission.  

For example, one affiliate assists in management of certain real estate, one is focused on student housing, another supports the university’s research incubator, one affiliate manages private support for UB, and one holds the endowment. 

How does the UB Foundation attract resources for UB?

The UB Foundation accepts funds from the private sector. Many of these donors prefer to make their gifts to private organizations like the UB Foundation, rather than to state or public entities, for numerous reasons.

As a private organization, the UB Foundation can:

  • Protect donors’ privacy (and their personal financial information) by not disclosing gift agreements
  • Give donors the flexibility to specify how their gift funds should be used and managed by the UB Foundation; donors may designate funds for a specific purpose (scholarship, lecture, award, etc.) or for a specific university school or unit
  • Reassure donors that their gift will be responsibly invested, distributed for its intended purpose, and not become commingled with state appropriations and other public funds
  • Uphold a fiduciary responsibility to represent the interests of donors, often in perpetuity
  • Follow privacy standards that are protected by New York State law, and supported by a ruling from the New York State Supreme Court

How is the UB Foundation accountable to the community?

The mission for the UB Foundation is to support UB’s activities and programs. The UB Foundation is accountable to numerous parties, including:

  • UB leadership
  • Donors
  • Federal, state and local authorities in human resources, legal affairs, real estate management, financial affairs and more

The following practices help ensure accountability: