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Letter to the editor: Crowdfunding and austerity

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Thank you for your thoughtful editorial on the relationship between philanthropy and government funding (“When austerity strikes, McGill turns to crowdfunding,” Feb. 9). I agree wholeheartedly with your central argument that fundraising – whether through crowdfunding or other mechanisms – is no substitute for a government funding model that fully supports McGill’s needs and ambitions. This is something I hear from donors nearly every day, and which the principal and others are working hard to address in their discussions with the Quebec government.

I do want to address one important statement near the beginning of your editorial that misstates the level of transparency in McGill’s fundraising operations.

You say that funds raised from donors to McGill “go into the university’s operating budget, a relatively opaque process, so some donors do not necessarily see where their money has gone.” In fact, the opposite is true: Virtually all of the donations we receive—large or small, and whether by cheque or through our online portals—are designated to specific purposes identified by the donors themselves, whether it’s creating a new bursary or scholarship, or supporting a wonderful program like the Arts Internship Office.

I am delighted that Seeds of Change, which the University Advancement team launched in 2014, is providing students with a much-needed platform to raise funds for the projects they believe in, but the same principle of highly directed support applies to nearly every gift we receive. Regardless of the method of giving, it is private donations, targeted to the causes near and dear to the hearts of our donors, that allow McGill to maintain its margin of excellence despite having an operating budget that is dwarfed by many of our peer universities.

Respectfully,

Marc Weinstein

Vice-Principal, University Advancement

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