LSU has changed a lot since I began college, but two truths hold strong: the Tiger community is characterized by boundless grit and spirit, and when it is harnessed through philanthropy, big ideas come to life. In my role as chair of the LSU Foundation Board of Directors, these truths inspire me to be part of unlocking LSU’s great potential.

About four years ago, President F. King Alexander elevated the importance of philanthropy at LSU, recognizing the opportunity before us. The LSU Foundation responded by developing a plan to close the fundraising performance gap between us and our peers, a plan rooted in benchmarking, the guidance of the premier consultant in our industry, and the vision of our leadership at the time. We shared our standing publicly because we wanted Tigers to know that we weren’t where we needed to be, but we had a plan to get there.

We had a lot of ground to make up; we embraced the challenge. In the last three years, the LSU Foundation has transformed academic fundraising at LSU. LSU has risen from dead last to third in the SEC in alumni giving participation. Our endowment value is up 16%, and planned gifts, including estate commitments, are up 67%. Our fundraisers’ visits with donors are up 75%, and the number of $25,000-plus gifts is up 20%. We’ve surpassed our fundraising goals, securing more than $171 million in fiscal year 2019 in academic fundraising — including 14 $1 million-plus gifts — for the flagship campus. And our $1.5 billion Fierce for the Future Campaign, a partnership with LSU’s foundations statewide, is running ahead of schedule, having recently surpassed the midway point.

As Alexander recently noted, LSU donors are enthusiastic about both academics and athletics — because both are important parts of our identity as Tigers. Each gift, no exceptions, is directed as the donor chooses, from the flagship campus to our campuses statewide, to a host of programs, people, and initiatives across the state. For us, the conversation about philanthropy at LSU isn’t about academics versus athletics. We’re all on the same team, a team that develops leaders in and on every field. Rather than pit our interests against each other, we’re far more focused on how we can jointly support all students, including our student athletes; invest in research and innovation that changes lives; and show the world what it means to be fierce for the future.

I’m personally grateful for the passion every LSU donor brings to investing in the areas at LSU that matter most to them. That’s the spirit that makes LSU a champion in every sense of the word.

Clarence P. Cazalot Jr.

chair, LSU Foundation Board of Directors