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A Record-setting Year for Giving and Engagement

“These generous gifts from alumni, parents, faculty, staff and friends of the college send an important message — they believe in what we do.” — President Jeff Abernathy.

<em>Scholarship donors meet their student recipients at the annual Donor-Scholar Lunch.<br><br></em>Scholarship donors meet their student recipients at the annual Donor-Scholar Lunch.

Alma College achieved a record year for philanthropy and engagement in 2015-16.

The college raised approximately $16 million in gifts and pledges, marking the largest single fundraising year in Alma’s 130-year history. By comparison, Alma’s average fundraising per year over the past decade totaled about $6 million.

“These generous gifts from alumni, parents, faculty, staff and friends of the college send an important message — they believe in what we do,” says President Jeff Abernathy.

As part of its record year, the college surpassed an ambitious annual giving target of $1,365,000 — also an all-time record. Annual giving describes repeatable gifts that support Alma’s budget expenditures for the current or upcoming fiscal year.

Annual giving donors provided Alma with budget relief, supplied scholarships and enriched a wide range of academic and athletic programs. Budget-enhancing academic support increased by more than 200 percent to more than $130,000. The Scot Loyalty Fund for Athletics experienced a 44 percent increase over the previous year.

<em>Alumni gathering in Atlanta.<br><br></em>Alumni gathering in Atlanta.

“The extraordinary passion, leadership and generosity of so many individuals catapulted us past our highly ambitious goals for the year,” says Matt vandenBerg, vice president for advancement. “Donors built renovated facilities, created and strengthened scholarships, supported faculty and enhanced the educational experience of our students.”

New Initiative: Giving Circles

Several new tactics, including Alma’s first giving circle and its participation in Giving Tuesday, helped the college to expand philanthropic participation levels.

A giving circle is a group of volunteers who donate, raise, pool and grant funds together to support a cause about which they are passionate. This model empowered Model United Nations alumni to work together as a team across generations to raise substantial resources for the program. Volunteers raised $56,000 — well over their preliminary $25,000 goal — and engaged dozens of first-time donors.

Last Dec. 1, the college participated for the first time in Giving Tuesday, the national movement that celebrates charitable giving following the post-Thanksgiving shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday. A total of 242 Alma alumni and friends provided $60,907 in just one 24-hour day. Nearly eight out of every 10 donors made first-time or increased gifts.

A signature achievement in engagement was the launch of the Alma Ambassador Program, a comprehensive effort to organize, support and promote all types of volunteerism with the college. Participants completely customize their involvement; they can do a little or a lot and can play an important role irrespective of their physical location.

Alma Ambassador Program Encourages Engagement

This past year, Ambassadors created internships for students, promoted Alma programs on social media, shared life lessons in classrooms, referred prospective students and much more.

Ambassadors played a significant role in helping Alma surpass its student recruitment goals. Starting last year, if someone refers a prospective student who ultimately enrolls in the college, that student receives a $1,000 scholarship for each of his or her four years in the name of the referrer. In the year before this program, Alma received 60 prospective student referrals. This past year, Ambassadors referred 939 prospective students.

More than 1,180 alumni, parents and friends registered as Ambassadors last year, and 91 percent of them performed at least one meaningful service.

“We understand that the Alma Ambassador Program is the largest and most impactful engagement program of any liberal arts institution in the United States,” says vandenBerg.

“We believe deeply in the importance of establishing an enduring culture of philanthropy and engagement at Alma College,” he says. “Countless people helped Alma to take a giant step toward that objective this year; and we now seek to build on our momentum. To our alumni, parents, faculty, staff and friends: Thank you for making these successes possible, and we look forward to partnering on the vital work ahead.”

Story published on August 26, 2016