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

Text: Sparks of Genius Fall 2023 Lineup; Image: Sunset with lit sparkler

Fall '23 Sparks of Genius Sessions

Join us for an upcoming Sparks of Genius session (or many!) this fall. In-person…

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  • Sparks of Genius

UIDEA S23 Applications Open

Applications are now open for the Spring 2023 batch of UIDEA, the accelerator intended to fuel innovation in advancement that benefits the University of Illinois. In addition to the growth and disruptive ideas UIDEA has always encouraged, the program is expanding this year in two ways:

  1. We want to see you act on any idea you have, not just those that haven't been done in the industry yet. If you have a best practice you think should be implemented here, let's do it. If you have a pain point in a current business process that you think should be improved, let's reimagine it. Teams with any ideas have access to the same coaching, advising, and resources available to all UIDEA…
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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.

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

Learn more