An enduring bond

17 Jan 2022

Giving something back: Many donors have a close connection with LMU. Even the establishment of LMU in 1472 can be viewed as an endowment. How LMU foundations benefit students, research, and teaching.

Papal foundation privilege from 1459

In 1458, Duke Ludwig IX "the Rich" asked Pope Pius II to grant a privilege for a "studium generale" in Ingolstadt.

Helping pay for the medical care of seriously ill children, subsidizing students so that they can concentrate on their studies instead of working jobs, raising money for research projects — foundations at LMU are both numerous and various. “Many people are not even aware that we independently manage so many foundations at LMU. It is something unique in Germany,” says Ernst G. Wittmann, Head of Endowment and Foundations at LMU. And this reaches far back in time.

Even the establishment of LMU in 1472 by Duke Ludwig IX of Bayern-Landshut can be viewed as an endowment, as attested by the “founder page” (Stifterblatt in German — similar to a deed of foundation) bound into LMU’s oldest matriculation register. The first endowments funded travel and family bursaries to help students live at their place of study.

A visible presence in the cityscape

Founded in 1494 by Duke George the Rich of Bayern-Landshut, the Herzogliches Georgianum (Ducal Georgianum seminary) is a fine example of how foundations are woven into the history and architecture of Munich. The college of the same name, which is devoted primarily to the education of theology students, has been located at Professor-Huber-Platz since the start of the 19th century.

Just a few streets away, we have Café Reitschule. Situated on Königinstraße by the English Garden, the café also came from an endowment. The building was bequeathed to LMU in 1932 by Dr. Hermann Anschütz-Kaempfe, the inventor of the gyrocompass. Even back then, there was a riding school at the site. “It was originally founded for the physical exercise of soldiers returning home from the First World War,” explains Wittmann.

Everyone can donate

In view of the impressive variety of foundations managed by LMU, we can dispel a persistent myth: namely, that you need to possess a great fortune to make an endowment. “Endowing is not synonymous with big sums of money or a will.” Rather: “Everyone can donate.” And they can do so at any time. Ernst G. Wittmann himself is continually surprised by the variety of motives and reasons for donating.

Some donors are former students who want to give something back to the university. Others have more cross-disciplinary and social aims in mind, such as Dr. Hadumod Bußmann. The linguist founded the Prinzessin Therese von Bayern-Stiftung (Princess Therese of Bavaria Foundation) in 1997 with the goal of supporting the academic careers of women at LMU. Established with an endowment just shy of 15,000 euros, the foundation is a good example of how you can achieve a lot with a small endowment that is clearly defined. This applies particularly when the work of the foundation is supported by fundraising activities, publicizing, and reaching out to potential donors.

LMU now manages the full panoply of foundation types. A current example is the endowment fund (Stiftungsfonds). “This is a donation given on the condition that the money be used for research and teaching.” Another endowment and donation option is a so-called hybrid foundation (Hybridstiftung), whereby part of the endowment capital remains intact, while another part can be spent promptly for the agreed purpose. This delivers an immediate benefit to the foundation goal.

For some decades, there has been an increase in donations for medical research, such as in the fields of tumor research, dementia, or childhood illnesses. The latter, for example, is the focus of the Retzbach und Meth-Stiftung (Retzbach and Meth Foundation). What impresses Wittmann most of all about this case: “Here we have a family of merchants from Munich who their whole lives long saved up every mark they got to buy houses, and all with the ultimate aim of setting up a foundation to improve the medical care of seriously ill children.”

A question of confidence

From the perspective of foundation management, emphasizes Wittmann, asset management and yield stability are key elements. During the financial planning stage, the assets to be managed are divided into short-term, medium-term, and perpetual funds (Ewigkeitsgelder). In recognition of its professional financial management and role as an institutional investor, LMU received the 2021 “Best Institutional Investor” award ("Bester kommunaler Inverstor") from the “portfolio institutionell” publishing house. The award means a lot to Ernst G. Wittmann, who is himself an LMU alumnus. He points out that this validation of professional structures in dealing with endowment funds and real estate will generate confidence among future donors.

When it comes to addressing and advising donors, we have long entered the digital age. People can make donations today through online payment services such as PayPal and Klarna. Alternative donation forms such as crowdfunding are also used. Wittmann cites the example of a recent study that a researcher financed by means of crowdfunding via a donation account. “As an academic, you can use a fundraising platform to boost the financing of research and teaching activities.”

Expression of togetherness and solidarity

In total, around three to five million euros of foundation income is available for spending at LMU every year on average. So that this remains the case — or even better, the sum increases — it is important for foundation management to advise the individual foundations. “20 percent of our foundations make up 80 percent of the foundation capital. Most of them have very modest foundation capital. As such, the support of the foundation administrators is very important so that the foundations continue to receive donations and can fulfill their purpose,” says Ernst G. Wittmann.

At the end of the Second World War, the individual scholarship funds were restructured and merged into a United Scholarship Fund (Vereinigte Stipendienstiftung). “Here we brush up against a lot of prominent names of Bavarian history,” says Wittmann. “The history of foundations at LMU is interwoven with the history of Munich and the personal histories of people who worked and still work here.”

Some 250 scholarships in total are financed through the United Scholarship Fund today, including many "Deutschlandstipendiaten" (Germany Scholars), who receive support by virtue of their outstanding academic performance. It is a scholarship that nicely illustrates how often foundations are a meeting of minds, of people united sometimes by a connection to LMU but always by a spirit of togetherness and solidarity. Indeed, the recipients of scholarships themselves are motivated to help others. Take for instance the Syrian student, Ihsann Louleh, who had to flee his home country to further pursue his medical studies. “I’m so grateful to the scholarship and the donors,” says Louleh, who receives a Deutschlandstipendium (Germany Scholarship). “I used the time to study and to give something back to society.”

Further information about the foundations at LMU is available here

Further reading: “Wohltäter der Wissenschaft” (Benefactors of Science)

portfolio institutionell Verlag: Preis "Bester kommunaler Investor"

Crowdfunding: Mountain rescue study

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