Home > UGC Publications > Speeches and Articles > 2004 > Panel Discussion Topic -Fundraising Through Partnerships: Future Trends in Government, Institutions and the Community (3.12.2004)

Conference on Institutional Fundraising: Our Roles
Panel Discussion Topic-Fundraising Through Partnerships: Future Trends in Government, Institutions and the Community

Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre
9:30 am, 3 December 2004 (Friday)

Opening Speech by Mr Michael V Stone,
Secretary-General of the University Grants Committee

Professor Tsui, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

Dr Lam sends her sincerest apologies. She was taken poorly last night and is still under the weather this morning. I am very pleased to be given the opportunity to give some opening remarks for this Conference. A story goes that a university fundraiser was once asked to make 135 calls to donors, but he only connected to 35 of them. The other 100 hung up because he sounded just like the dial tone. Well, fundraising is not easy - but it is something all institutions have to think much more about as Hong Kong copes with its budget deficit.

The optimist might suggest that the current budget crunch is just part of the ebb and flow of economic cycles. In bad times, the Government cuts support, and they will restore it again in the good times. But this time it may well be different. What we are seeing is an international trend - throughout the world public support for higher education is slipping on a per student basis, and private funding is becoming an increasingly important share for higher education systems. We require alternative sources of funding to support the higher education sector at the level required by a knowledge-driven economy, particularly in the face of other competing social priorities.

At the same time, universities are - rightly - seen as key providers of the types of personnel needed in the twenty-first century. Ask any business leader about priorities these days and you are likely to hear education and workforce training. The driving force behind the twenty-first century economy is knowledge, and developing human capital is the best way to ensure prosperity.

In a nutshell, our institutions must do more with less and diversify their funding sources. Understandably, our institutions are under increasing stress and some feel that they are being pulled out of the classroom and the laboratory by the demands of grantsmanship. While these changing conditions do not necessarily imply a negative position, they do pose serious challenges. But it is important that we see these changes not as threats but rather as opportunities. We can turn them into a strategic opportunity to shape our future, while preserving the most important of our values and our traditions.

Among our institutional leaders, there is a growing realization that our institutions must become more "entrepreneurial". More ambitious fund-raising, more aggressive pursuit of private research funds, the building up of endowment funds, and new management models need to become part of the mix. This will not happen by accident. Institutions need to use their reputation, alumni networks and all the contacts at their disposal to attract the resources they need to grow.

It isn't easy, but the Government and the University Grants Committee are ready to help. We have just completed a matching grants scheme whereby the Government provided $1 billion to match private donations. The response of the community has been wonderful. The money was more than matched, with institutions raising over $1.3 billion. This initiative will pay a powerful dividend in the future, as a real appreciation of "giving" is now forming. There is still much to be done but we have made a good start.

But at the same time it is also up to the institutions to convince the donors. Philanthropists are willing to give to institutions because they believe that this is the ideal way of helping Hong Kong now and in the future. They will not drop the money in the coffer and walk away. They are watching - they expect the institutions that have benefited so much from their generosity will deliver results and serve Hong Kong.

Funding issues are deeply entangled in the future of our institutions, making conversation about the implications of financial change difficult and challenging to all involved. I am thankful to the organizers of this event for providing an opportunity for us to exchange views about fundraising issues. Our institutions are so central to the future well-being of Hong Kong, that no matter how difficult these issues are, they must be faced and resolved - and they will be. Looking at the distinguished list of speakers from all over the globe, I am sure this symposium will help considerably to take matters forward.

Thank you.

UGC Secretariat