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Business Board meeting reports U of T’s investments at record highs

New Bicentennial Campaign more financially ambitious than previous Boundless campaign
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JESSICA LAM/THE VARSITY
JESSICA LAM/THE VARSITY

The Business Board of U of T’s Governing Council convened on October 5 for its first meeting of the academic year. The Business Board is responsible for overseeing cost-effective resource allocation and approving all major university expenditures.

More engagement with alums

Vice-President, Advancement David Palmer reported a slew of successes at the university, despite the pandemic. “This was a record year for alumni engagement,” Palmer said. Alumni engagement refers to how many university alums participate in program offerings such as lectures, courses, and social events. 

COVID-19 restrictions allowed for alums and volunteers from around the world to connect virtually. “While we wish we could meet in person, we did take full advantage of [leveraging] these tools to extend our outreach in very significant ways across the world,” Palmer explained.

The 2020–2021 fiscal year saw 57,369 alums engaging with various program offerings from the university, compared to 51,282 the previous fiscal year. Of these, 17,921 were ‘newly engaged’ alums who had just started taking advantage of university programming, an increase from 16,884 in the previous year. Overall, 82 per cent of divisions met or exceeded their projected goals for alum engagement over the year.

Fundraising

Palmer also announced a record year for fundraising at the university. This achievement was a result of $445 million in gifts and grants during the 2020–2021 fiscal year, bolstered by the historic $250 million donation from the Temerty Foundation and Family.  

“This is an extraordinary milestone for Canadian philanthropy in general,” Palmer said, explaining the donation will provide a “huge boost” to the university’s biomedical and clinical research and support collaborative research efforts with U of T’s hospital partners, such as the Toronto Academic Health Science Network. 

U of T’s return on fundraising investment during the fiscal year was also extremely efficient. It spent 9.1 cents per dollar of funding raised, down from 19.2 cents last year and significantly lower than the 10-year average of 15.7 cents.

Bicentennial Campaign priorities

Palmer, along with Professor Trevor Young, U of T’s acting vice-president and provost, also presented the Bicentennial Campaign priorities. The Bicentennial Campaign, the successor to U of T’s Boundless campaign, aims to raise $4 billion in donations from 225,000 alums, doubling the Boundless campaign’s goal of $2 billion in 2011. 

According to the proposal, the campaign’s public phase is expected to launch in late fall and — through one million instances of alumni engagement — intends on helping the university tackle challenges like rebuilding from the pandemic, taking on the climate crisis, and dealing with inequity. 

Funding priorities include student programming and financial aid, faculty funding, research and program funding, and capital projects, with $1.409 billion, $1.314 billion, $1.624 billion, and $974.9 million prioritized to each respective area. The campaign focuses on students and faculty particularly, with 25.3 per cent of the total ideal funds allotted for student support and 29.2 per cent allotted for faculty support. In comparison, the Boundless campaign allotted 14.9 per cent of its funds for student support and 10 per cent for faculty support.

The total $5.3 billion of academic funding priorities approved by the provost purposefully exceeds the fundraising goal of $4 billion, in order to allow for changing expectations.

Investments exceed expectations

Chuck O’Reilly, president and chief investment officer of the University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation (UTAM), also delivered his semi-annual update on investment performance. UTAM manages more than $13 billion in pension, endowment, and short-term working capital assets on behalf of the university.

The report for the period ending June 30 was characterized by numerous successes, and all three pools of capital — pension, Long-Term Capital Appreciation Pool (LTCAP), and Expendable Funds Investment Pool (EFIP) — exceeded the university’s target returns over all periods of measurement.

“[The] capital markets have indeed been very accommodative for investors over all the periods reported,” O’Reilly said. “The returns of the positive reference portfolio have considerably outperformed the university’s target returns.”

The 10-year dollar value add, which is the financial gains of the LTCAP and pension in dollars, was $812.8 million of excess capital between the two funds, far outperforming expectations. EFIP performed similarly well over the last 10 years, generating $56.2 million of additional capital. 

The next Business Board meeting is scheduled for November 24.