Laying the foundation for a New American University

November 28, 2012

Q-and-A with ASU Foundation CEO R.F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr.

Ten years ago, when ASU President Michael M. Crow unveiled his blueprint for a New American University, Newsweek called it “one of the most radical redesigns in higher learning since the modern research university took shape in 19th-century Germany.” Students, faculty and staff began seeing major transformations immediately in the way their departments and colleges interfaced with each other and with the community. Crow’s blueprint called upon university leaders to reshape the institution on a grand scale; a scale that would require a similarly bold redesign of ASU’s fundraising arm. R.F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr. Download Full Image

As CEO of the ASU Foundation, R.F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr. is well aware of the differences between a traditional college fundraising operation and his organization. It’s spelled out in bold maroon on the wall that greets him in the Fulton Center every morning: “ASU Foundation for A New American University.” The first time Shangraw stepped into that lobby, he was already infused with Crow’s philosophy, having served as ASU’s senior vice president for the Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development and co-director of the Global Institute of Sustainability, both of which were established to advance the president’s vision for ASU as “university as enterprise.”

Now, after one year in the corner office, Shangraw explains why remaking a university also demands remaking the foundation that supports it.

Why is a “foundation for a New American University” different from any other university foundation?

RS: University foundations have traditionally depended on grateful alumni for financial support. They utilize an annual fund operation to get an initial investment from an alumnus, then develop that relationship over time until eventually they connect the donor with the college where they received their degree.

But today, we need to appeal to our alumni and non-alumni based on our ability to address the grand challenges facing our communities. We need to connect with a donor’s passion, regardless of their specific degree or even their alma mater. We’ve become more solutions-focused, which has greatly expanded the number of investors in ASU.

What does the ASU Foundation offer someone with an interest in supporting ASU?

RS: We can match them with their passions. These are people who want to figure out ways to do personalized medicine. They want to figure out how to train teachers better, how to build sustainable cities. They want to solve problems, and we have to provide them investment opportunities which enable them to pursue those passions and change the world.

This is not new, by the way. If you look at non-university foundations like the American Red Cross or United Way, they don’t have “alumni,” so they’ve always been fundraising based on solutions. What is new is for a university foundation to say to alumni, “We’re glad we can connect with you because of your purposeful affiliation with ASU, but now how do we actually match what you’re really interested in?”

And how do you? Many solution areas seem to be outside the scope of a university foundation.

RS: We’re not trying to be the new American Red Cross or United Way. But we are the foundation for a New American University, and that model enables us to break new ground. We started with our Challenges initiative in 2009, identifying issues with global impact. That led to ASU Solutions, which has only recently gotten under way. Solutions is our deep commitment to use-inspired research aimed at solving the greatest challenges of our time, which we’ve currently grouped into five areas.

So with Solutions, we can ask potential supporters of the university, “What are you interested in solving? Are you interested in better health outcomes? Are you interested in better preparing teachers? Improving our cities? Making better designs or better decisions? Are you interested in university as enterprise, a whole new way of thinking about how a university is evolving in the United States?” Well, we can connect with you.

While this groundbreaking new model is still in its early stages, are you already seeing it as a success?

RS: It will take more time to judge success for this new approach. It’s not like a traditional campaign that comes along every couple of years and says, “Here are the big ideas we want to chase after”; then the campaign builds up and dies down, builds up and dies down.

We want something that’s sustainable across time; something that gives us this set of solutions that we know the university is working on that we can actually go out and present to people as a way of connecting their passions with what we’re exploring and attempting to solve here at the university. We are reorienting the ASU Foundation around outcomes and focusing more of our message on what Arizona State University is doing for the rest of the world.

In the year you’ve been CEO of the foundation, what has been your most important achievement?

RS: Bringing the foundation into better alignment with the New American University; making sure we’re in tune with what the university is doing to enable us to fundraise around it. We have spent the last decade pursuing the New American University vision, and I was part of it on the university side. What we’re seeing a decade into it is results. It’s a model that’s working. Instead of us talking about it as a concept, we now have proof points on how it’s working. Now we can say to people, “We had this vision, we implemented it and it’s working really well. Now we’re asking you to join us as investors.” I’m very proud of the progress, but President Crow will be the first to tell you there is much work ahead. We are doing that work.

What has been the most important ingredient in that success?

RS: We have a world-class team in the foundation that wakes up each day passionate about helping to advance ASU, the New American University. Without those team members and, of course, ASU’s impressive faculty, students and staff and our generous investors, the New American University vision would have turned out to be a hallucination instead of a bold reality.


Erik Ketcherside,
Communications Manager | Editorial Services
ASU Foundation for A New American University

'Giving Tuesday' drive raises food, student-services donations

November 28, 2012

Giving Tuesday turned out to be double the fun for employees of the ASU Foundation for A New American University and the ASU Parents Association (ASUPA). Foundation staff brought more than 2,000 food items to their Fulton Center workplace for the St. Mary’s Food Bank in Phoenix, while ASUPA led a drive that raised nearly $7,500 for Arizona State University student-services support.

Both drives, however, will result in twice as much support. Giving Tuesday Download Full Image

The foundation will match its employees’ food donation, while the proud mother of an ASU student has agreed to match gifts generated through ASUPA during the Nov. 27 Giving Tuesday drive.

“Imagine what it would be like if everyone who could give, would give,” said R.F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr., CEO of the foundation. “The members of this foundation team and our parents association have shown the power of giving in a short, 24-hour period.

“This great university is focused on transformative societal impact. What our team has done in one day has helped make a difference in this community and on all ASU campuses. We have a very large heart for giving and today it is twice as caring and generous.”

Shangraw noted that foundation employees will continue to donate food for the food bank through the end of the week.

Donations to the ASUPA will be increased to $14,834 because of a commitment made by Lee Ann Slosser, who has a daughter attending ASU. The money will be directed to a variety of student services provided by the organization, according to Robin Okun Hengl, senior director of parent programs at the foundation.

“This is such a rewarding outpouring of support for our students,” said Okun Hengl, whose members represent a nationwide parent network dedicated to sustaining their students’ education and support of programs and services that enrich the ASU experience. “We had nearly 100 proud parents support all ASU students on Giving Tuesday, and we can’t thank them enough for what they have done to positively impact the student experience at ASU.”

ASUPA support provides students with scholarship assistance, free tutoring, an emergency crisis fund and free Thanksgiving dinners for those unable to travel home for the holiday. Last week the ASUPA served more than 300 turkey dinners to stay-on-campus students.

“The generosity of our ASU parents and their support for all students is heartwarming and appreciated,” said Okun Hengl. “As we fundraise to provide advocacy for scholarships and grants to benefit our students and advance university initiatives, this is especially rewarding. Lee Ann truly reflects the level of enthusiasm of parents for ASU students, and the commitment they place on ASU and the education of those who will make a difference in our future.”

The opportunity to contribute was not lost on the parent of one ASU student who took part in the on-campus Thanksgiving meal.

“Thank you for providing such a wonderful gathering for my son and me on Thanksgiving,” wrote the California parent when sending his online gift. “I feel more at ease knowing there is a group of parents nearby supporting our students, and I look forward to the next three years of being a part of this great family with my son Matthew.”

About the ASU Foundation for A New American University

As one of Arizona’s oldest and most trusted nonprofit organizations, the ASU Foundation for A New American University ensures the success of ASU as a New American University. The foundation raises, invests and manages private funds to benefit Arizona State University and serves as the university’s entrepreneurial arm in technology commercialization, real estate investment and other emerging initiatives. The foundation was incorporated in 1955 and currently manages assets exceeding $781 million. Learn more about the foundation at

Steve Des Georges,
Senior Director, Editorial Services
ASU Foundation for A New American University