The OLLI at URI Receives Second $1M gift for Program Support;
Member Support Still Essential to Fundraising Efforts
The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at URI recently received a second $1 million gift from The Bernard Osher Foundation to continue providing support for the program. The gift will be used to build the OLLI’s endowment.
The OLLI received its first $1 million gift from The Bernard Osher Foundation in 2012. Since then, the OLLI has grown considerably in membership, program offerings, and members’ annual giving – an accomplishment that inspired The Bernard Osher Foundation to award the second endowment.
“The Bernard Osher Foundation was very impressed with our remarkable growth in membership, in the level of giving from our members through our Annual Campaign, and in our expansion of the number and variety of program offerings,” says Beth Leconte, Executive Director of the OLLI at URI. “We are very grateful for the Foundation’s support and guidance, and its willingness to help our members build upon our tight-knit community. It’s this sense of community and culture of philanthropy that allows our members to thrive intellectually, creatively, and socially.”
To receive a second $1 million gift is extraordinary says Phillip G. Clark, Professor and Director of both the Program in Gerontology and the Rhode Island Geriatric Education Center at URI. Like Leconte, Clark credits the OLLI’s robust membership for setting the stage for the award. Members play a key role in shaping, managing and leading the organization.
“Our members value the quality of our courses,” says Clark.
While the second gift provides funds for support in the long run, Leconte emphasizes that the OLLI must still fundraise to keep the OLLI operating smoothly and thriving. Members actually provide the main stream of revenue for the OLLI, she says.
Endowments like the OLLI’s are held and invested by the University of Rhode Island Foundation. Over the past several years, the OLLI’s endowment has averaged 3.3% in returns, which can be used by the OLLI to support some, but not all, of its costs. Member giving and support remain essential to offering the OLLI’s courses and activities.
“The endowment does not cover our operating costs. In order to sustain the OLLI at URI, we must raise additional monies through donations, which help the OLLI keep fees manageable and help us continue to offer and expand quality programs and services. We still need member support to meet our need for things like enhanced classroom media, for example,” says Leconte. “Member support is core to carrying out our mission, which is to provide learning opportunities that enhance the enjoyment, meaning and direction of adult lives.”
Bill Cole, Finance Committee Chair for the OLLI, echoes Leconte’s sentiment.
“Through investments, the endowment provides some money each year to help absorb some of our costs, but it does not cover the many other expenses associated with offering our high-quality programs, and with accommodating the size to which the OLLI has grown. Membership and course fees are what mainly cover our expenses,” explains Cole. “To ensure the quality of the OLLI services and to sustain its ability to provide this program to future adult learners for many years, we need ongoing charitable contributions from members.”