Most know Elson S. Floyd as the president of WSU, but many are unaware of his other university job.
For the past nearly three years, Floyd has moonlighted as the de facto chief executive officer of the WSU Foundation, the university’s private donor fundraising operation. And he’s done so for not even a single penny.
Floyd took over the position when previous CEO Brenda Wilson-Hale left WSU for another job in May 2010 during the thick of the state’s fiscal crisis as mounting budget cuts continued to hammer higher education.
From 2008 to 2011, the university lost roughly 30 percent of its state funding support. Along with it came the elimination of three academic programs, 1,080 courses and 517 jobs from WSU, according to the university’s Budget Office.
Since 2008, the university has cut more than a dozen positions from the WSU Foundation, said foundation spokesman Trevor Durham in an email to The Daily Evergreen. Seven occurred in WSU’s initial round of reductions in 2008, and the rest were from attrition, Durham said.
In light of the drastic cuts, Floyd decided not to spend money on a replacement for Wilson-Hale. Instead, the foundation moved forward with Floyd at the helm, overseeing the direction of the organization while a team of foundation leaders carried out the day-to-day fundraising operations.
“This is not a permanent solution,” Floyd said. “But given the fiscal realities, given the budget reductions I’ve had to deal with and the fact that we’ve met or exceeded our fundraising goals, it’s working.”
Since Wilson-Hale left, the organization has raised more than $292 million, Durham said. All the while, the foundation has operated under a smaller budget that remains $1.6 million short of its 2008 level.
By December, the foundation had picked up $758.1 million from donors, inching closer to its $1 billion fundraising goal with the Campaign for Washington State University – Because the World Needs Big Ideas. The campaign launched in 2006 and sits about $34 million ahead of pace as its 2015 end date approaches, Durham said.
“This has been a difficult economy to work in, but I think we’re going to be successful,” he said. “We’ve got a very energized alumni base that wants to help students and faculty at WSU and seize the grander picture of what WSU means to the state and beyond.”
The foundation’s leadership team consists of about seven people and remains in near-constant contact with Floyd as he carves out time in his busy schedule to meet with donors and potential donors. And the team works behind the scenes to make sure Floyd is successful when he meets with donors to secure gifts, Durham said.
Floyd also regularly meets with the boards of Trustees and Governors, both of which perform significant fundraising roles within the foundation. Some of his responsibilities as de facto CEO – like interfacing with these two boards – would actually fall to him anyway, he said.
“There are some gifts that only the president can close,” Floyd said. “So, in some ways, it’s just simply a further augmentation of what I do as president.”
In the long run, the foundation will need a new CEO, he said. But Floyd is in no rush to fill the position at the moment.
“We’re probably much more efficient than any other foundation in the country,” Floyd said.
Now, as the sunset of the Campaign for Washington State University grows near, administrators are looking at strategies for their next big fundraising effort. But at this point, it’s too early to speculate about what areas the next campaign will emphasize, Floyd said.
“After we finish this campaign, we’re going to all catch our breath and sort of regroup,” he said. “There will be a huge celebration, of course. And after some time of reflection, we will begin to plan for the next campaign.”