Top fundraiser focuses on future of UF Law

Lauren Wilcox, UF Law’s new senior director of development and alumni affairs, slides behind the wheel of a rented minivan. “This is the part of the job I don’t like,” she says as she unpacks from her purse a cellphone, water bottle, a Clif bar and a banana. “Getting situated.”

She drives from Gainesville to a fundraiser at an Orlando law firm that night and is soon in her element, chatting with donors at a soiree raising money for a UF Law scholarship. Wilcox moves among the crowd, quick with questions demonstrating interest in others. She volunteers details about her own life and maintains an easy rapport with conversation partners.

Wilcox is settling nicely into her position as administrator and top fundraiser for the UF Law Office of Development and Alumni Affairs after a stint as interim leader. Alumni have noticed.

“Lauren has the ability to make the people that she approaches very comfortable,” said Ladd Fassett (JD 79), chairman of the UF Law Center Association Board of Trustees. “Her enthusiasm and love for the university shines through and that rekindles in those people their affection for the university.”

Wilcox travels all over the country for her job meeting with UF Law alumni, which frequently amount to social calls. That’s just fine with the self-described social butterfly. “It’s a lifestyle; it’s not a job. You work nights; you work weekends,” Wilcox said. It typically takes one and a half to two years of meetings between the fundraiser and potential donor before a major gift — at least $100,000 — is bestowed upon the law school, she said. Afterward, Wilcox enjoys showing donors what their gift paid for.

Some of the nation’s top land-use lawyers came together at the college as UF Law students soaked in the symposium in February. Wilcox sat in on the Richard E. Nelson Symposium with Jane Nelson, the widow of Richard Nelson (JD 55). Mrs. Nelson made the symposium possible.

“I like working with people and connecting their passion with the needs of the law school,” Wilcox said. “That’s really
what it’s all about — feeling like I’m contributing to the future of the law school.”

Donors pledged nearly $4 million to UF Law in the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2012. But Wilcox noted that major gifts
are rarer among UF Law donors than, say, the colleges of engineering or business. So as she reorganizes the office and adds staff, Wilcox will focus on widening the base of support and recognizing that more of the college’s fundraising comes in $1,000 to $5,000 donations.

“We need to reach out to more folks, not just going back to the same people,” Wilcox said. “We have a very, very strong
plan in place. We just need to get everybody in there and start executing it.”

Before coming to UF Law in November 2009 Wilcox took a position with WRUF AM/FM in Gainesville as an account executive,
a position she held for 10 years. The WRUF position involved business development, cultivation and prospecting, planning,
management, and sales —preparing her for her fundraising job.

And before going to work for WRUF, she earned a degree in public relations from the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications.

“She effectively led our fundraising efforts in the final months of the Florida Tomorrow campaign, and she has done an excellent job managing the Office of Development and Alumni Affairs during this transition period,” UF Law Dean Robert Jerry said in an email. “Her new appointment is being very well received by our alumni who know her through her prior work on behalf of the college.”

Alumni also appreciate the fact that Wilcox is a proud Gator. “Lauren’s strength is her enthusiasm,” Fassett said. “She’s just an extremely bright person who you enjoy being with. She bleeds orange and blue and it shows.”

How you can help

Annual Fund gifts are gifts of any size that are available for immediate expenditure, which enable us to take advantage of new opportunities that benefit students. Examples include student services, extracurricular activities, lecturers and speakers, career development support, student research assistantships, faculty professional development at conferences, “bridge-to-the-profession” programs, and co-curricular student organizations such as trial team and moot court.

Book awards honor academic achievement while supporting the Annual Fund program. Book awards recognize the outstanding student in each course. These sponsorships provide funds for all purposes supported by the Annual Fund. Book awards in Graduate Tax courses provide funds to support the Graduate Tax Program.

Book Awards are sponsored through individual or combined contributions of $2,500 a year for five years, totaling $12,500; or in perpetuity by establishing a $50,000 endowment. Sponsors select the course they wish to sponsor. With courses that have multiple sections, each section is available for sponsorship. Sponsored awards are presented at least once annually. Book awards can be named for individuals, law firms or corporations. Some are named in honor or memory of faculty members, colleagues or family members.

Endowments can be established at a minimum level of $30,000, creating a permanent fund that generates income for annual expenditure. The University of Florida Foundation manages all endowments. Income of approximately 4 percent annually is available for expenditure, and additional income is returned to principal. Endowments can be for unrestricted purposes that benefit the college’s programs or for a designated purpose, such as scholarships, student services, professorships, etc.

Bequests can be established at any age through a variety of planning devices. They can be used to create endowments for the college and even be designated for unrestricted giving.

  • General bequest – Probably the most popular type of charitable bequest, the donor simply leaves a specified dollar amount.
  • Specific bequest – The donors designate specific property they want the college to receive.
  • Residuary bequest – The donors grant all or a portion of their property after all debts, taxes, expenses and other bequests have been paid. This ensures other beneficiaries will receive their bequest first.
  • Percentage bequest – Expressed as a percentage of the donor’s estate or residuary estate. If fortune changes the size of your estate, the bequest will change in the same proportion.
  • Insurance policy bequest – The donors give us all or a percentage of their policy by listing the college as the policy beneficiary.

Property, art work, gifts-in-kind can be accepted as a contribution to the college.

Many alumni make annual gifts and create bequests to support the college after their passing. If you are considering a gift to the college please contact Lauren at 352-273-0643 or wilcox@law.ufl.edu. I’m happy to discuss the many creative
options for giving, including pledging a gift for a period of up to five years.