University of Illinois Foundation
Bringing Ideas to Life

Our Mission

We revolutionize philanthropy and engagement by investing in industry-changing ideas. Not just ideas that haven’t been done here yet. Fleeting sparks of genius. Nagging ideas. Inspiration from life outside advancement. New takes on old ideas. And yes, ideas that are so bold, no one thinks they are possible.

If you’ve asked, “Why do we…” or you’ve thought, “What if we could…,” then you, my friend, are an innovator. 

We envision the University of Illinois as the industry leader in advancement innovation, not just in how much we raise but in how we fundraise and engage.

How We Work

  • Coach Change

    We believe that anyone with an idea can change our industry. Especially with a little help. We provide innovators the tools and education they need to give new ideas the best chance of success.

  • Create Storytellers

    Every idea needs an audience. And every really big idea needs an equally great story to inspire others to believe it’s possible and necessary. We help innovators pen those stories.

  • Connect the Curious

    Innovators need champions. Ideas need feedback. And our U of I, CASE, APRA, INFINITEACRONYMS networks are vast. We build communities of innovators, expert advisors, and interested advocates.

  • Crave Speed

    Ideas can, in fact, come to life quickly. And they can be thoughtful. And planned. Tested. And tweaked. We launch ideas in 12 weeks.

Meet the Team

Mosope Kusoro

Economics ’22

Katie Blum

Assistant Vice President for Strategic Innovation, UIF

Emily Julien

Earth, Society, & Environmental Sustainability, '22
Our Story

The three universities in the University of Illinois system have been innovating for 150 years. Advancement at Illinois should be no different. If we can invent air-conditioning and the LED and whipped cream in a can, surely we can reinvent a centuries-old industry.

Timeline of the innovation in Advancement at the University of Illinois


I am a stronger Illinois Advancement professional because of the UIDEA program. The experience and outcome are undoubtedly what you make of it, but my best advice is to take hold of the opportunity and run with it. If you do, you’ll feel like I did…that participating in UIDEA was like entering a room with multiple metaphorical open doors and windows; each one leading you to a new network of people, a new way of conducting business, or even a new found passion.

Sam Hendon, MatchMaker team co-lead

We assume sometimes that all the questions have been answered, and that is certainly not true in our profession. Our profession is evolving, and I think we have a long way to go in terms of addressing the needs of future generations of donors. That's top of mind now, and I think it always will be. UIDEA inspired me to believe that it's possible to innovate, that we have a real opportunity to innovate more, and Illinois is a perfect place to do that.

Erin Kirby, MatchMaker founder

Latest Posts

UIDEA Frequently Asked Questions

What is UIDEA? UIDEA is an accelerator intended to fuel new ideas in advancement (fundraising, engagement, marketing, and related services) that benefit the University of Illinois.

When is the next UIDEA? The 12-week program runs every year during the Spring semester. In 2022, it will kick off on January 25, and Demo Day will be on April 26.

Who can apply? Anyone. Advancement staff, students, faculty, alumni, etc. We do encourage teams to have one advancement staff person as a team member or at minimum, a very close advancement advisor.

What kind of ideas do you accept? UIDEA is intended to design…

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The UIDEA Agreement

Teams admitted to the UIDEA program complete two separate agreements, one among their own team members defining how they'll work and one with the UIDEA program, called the UIDEA Agreement, which outlines expectations of the Foundation and the members of each team. Below are the expectations everyone agrees to as part of that latter agreement.

UIF Responsibilities

  • Provide funding for initiative as outlined in approved budget. Expenses will be paid by the Foundation during the batch
  • Outline the processes by…
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Get Involved

Volunteer to advise a team or learn more.

Be among the first to receive Innovate @ UIF news and invitations.

Design or pilot your idea in the S22 UIDEA batch.

What's your spark?

Dive deeper into the UIDEA program in What's the (big) UIDEA, the Course. Or refine your idea in the Idea Distillery.

Learn more