Private donations to UW lowest since '98

The University of Washington reported yesterday that in the past 12 months it raised the least private money since 1998.

The school raised almost $200 million in gifts and grants, $111.5 million or 35.8 percent less than it raised between 2002 and 2003.

The money goes toward research, programs, teaching, fellowships, scholarships and new buildings.

The school said the biggest difference is $110 million in contributions from the Gates foundation in the previous fiscal year.

But even in comparison with two years ago, the university still raised $39 million less. This is the first year since 1998 it has raised less than $200 million.

"People are contemplating how philanthropy fits with all the priorities they have for their families," said Connie Kravas, vice president of development.

Donors continue to feel the effects of the economy and Sept. 11, she said. Although a record number of people gave, foundations have not participated as much as before.

"We're looking for more Gateses in the world," she said.

The report showing a drop-off in contributions comes as the university is in the midst of a $2 billion fund-raising campaign it expects to take public on Oct. 15. It is still on track to meet that goal in 2008, Kravas said.

When asked what he thought about this year's contributions, Jeff Brotman, a regent and chairman of the finance and audit committee, said, "I'm thrilled."

Brotman asked at last month's committee meeting whether negative publicity had affected fund raising.

Several public scandals have hit the athletic department and medical centers in the past 12 months.

The medical centers recently reached a $35 million settlement with the federal government for Medicare and Medicaid billing fraud.

UW Medicine suffered the largest decline in contributions, raising about $102 million less than in the previous 12 months. Kravas said most of the Gates contribution last year went to UW Medicine.

In the athletic department, the director retired early after learning the women's softball team doctor had overmedicated players and after firing the football coach because of an NCAA investigation into allegations of gambling.

Athletic contributions fell 21.2 percent from 2002-2003.

Kravas said at the meeting last month that she and her colleagues had received several calls about the problems, but evidence of any connection between contributions and the scandals was strictly "anecdotal."

"I'm eager for positive press," she said yesterday.

Sharon Pian Chan: 206-464-2958 or