Winkler Group Assists University of Arkansas–Fort Smith in Receiving $18.7M Gift

University of Arkansas – Fort Smith received the largest single gift in its 94-year history with help from Charleston's Winkler Group

The University of Arkansas – Fort Smith (UAFS) announced the largest single gift in the institution’s 94-year history. The $18.7 million gift from the Windgate Foundation will address critical needs in the Arkansas River Valley by addressing healthcare discrepancies and cultivating an immersive arts experience. Windgate’s gift comes as UAFS is working with the Winkler Group, a national consulting firm headquartered in Charleston, to plan for the largest capital campaign ever undertaken by the university.

“This landmark gift will be transformational for the university and for the campaign. It demonstrates that UAFS is worthy of support because of the way it solves challenges and enhances an entire region. Donors will follow the foundation’s lead.”

The gift follows nationwide philanthropic giving patterns that have emerged since the pandemic. According to the most recent Giving USA report, cumulative giving by foundations rose more than 20 percent over the past two years to a record-high of more than $90 billion.

It is the Wingate Foundation’s fourth recent major commitment to UAFS and a testament to the strong partnership that has developed between the foundation and the University.

“We made efforts early on to establish and foster deep connections,” said Blake Rickman, executive director of the UAFS Foundation. “Our relationship with the foundation is built on trust; we have assembled a cross-campus group of faculty, deans, and advancement staff to help steward this gift and ensure the vision is carried out. Over-communication of results is our priority.”

UAFS expects to graduate 300 additional nurses each year because of the Windgate Foundation gift. This number more than doubles the current size of the nursing program and is anticipated to eliminate nursing vacancies in regional hospitals. The gift will transform the region’s access to healthcare and help erase healthcare disparities.

The gift will also expand the Windgate Art and Design building, enabling a more immersive public experience and new fine arts studios for students and faculty. New courses and expanded existing courses such as book arts, 3D design, art history, and graphic design will deepen students’ arts competency; a new Book Arts Center will open new opportunities for the community.
“This foundation has walked hand-in-hand with us for so many years,” said UAFS Chancellor Terisa Riley. “In some ways, I think they can dream bigger than even we do. And to dream big dreams to improve our community together is so special.”

In fostering the relationship with the Windgate Foundation, UAFS cast a vision for true and mutually beneficial impact. The foundation has roots in the region and recognizes the many ways the university touches its larger community. Its board is comprised of family members and the institution blended interests to look at community-based initiatives like healthcare.

“There’s no place other than a university where you see so many disciplines in a single place,” explains Rickman. “With one gift the foundation can impact the value and livability of the region through culture, engineering, healthcare, and innovation.”

As UAFS moves closer to launching its capital campaign, this transformational gift will generate momentum across all campaign priorities. The Winkler Group will ensure that its impact is maximized and translates into successful funding for additional priorities such as scholarships, economic initiatives, and projects to develop the campus and the community.

Celebrating its 18th year, the Winkler Group is a national consulting firm headquartered in Charleston with offices in Florida, Georgia, New York, and North Carolina. The firm specializes in capital campaigns and strategic planning for academic institutions and nonprofit organizations.  The Winkler Group develops the strategies so their clients can raise more money and focus on their mission. For more information, visit

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