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All-time Records Set for Private Support in 2016-17

“We are truly humbled by the extraordinary generosity of so many. Our student experience will be enriched for generations because donors believe passionately in the mission of Alma College.” — Jeff Abernathy

<em>Sponsor a Venture donors John and Nancy Colina with George Turner (grandfather of TiKilah) and TiKilah Turner ’19.</em>Sponsor a Venture donors John and Nancy Colina with George Turner (grandfather of TiKilah) and TiKilah Turner ’19.Alma College raised nearly $19 million in gifts and pledges during the 2016-17 academic year, an increase of more than 200 percent beyond the previous decade’s annual $6 million average. This marks the second year in a row that Alma has set a new all-time record for private support.

“We are truly humbled by the extraordinary generosity of so many,” says President Jeff Abernathy. “Our student experience will be enriched for generations because donors believe passionately in the mission of Alma College.”

Included in the overall fundraising total is an all-time high for the annual giving program, which expands Alma’s budget for the current or upcoming fiscal year through repeatable gifts. The college surpassed an ambitious annual giving target of $1,400,000 and raised $1,605,000, which represents a 70 percent increase over the 10-year average of $940,000.

Donors to the annual giving program supported academic and athletic programming at substantially higher levels. Support of academic programs increased to more than $170,000, which is 135 percent more than the 10-year average.

The Scot Loyalty Fund for Athletics experienced a 229 percent increase over the 10-year average, raising more than $184,000. The newly launched Varsity Club, a booster club for athletics and the philanthropic arm of the Scot Loyalty Fund, helped fuel this growth by empowering donors to strengthen the entire athletic program or focus their support toward a favorite team.

“The response to Alma’s bold engagement and philanthropy goals this year was a clear testament to the strength and generosity of our community,” says Vice President for Advancement Matt vandenBerg. “While the soaring numbers give us plenty of reasons to celebrate, we rejoice the most for our students, who are the reason for our efforts. Our donors inspire us to work even harder to benefit current and future generations of Scots.”

Investing in our Students

Two new initiatives showed promising results in their first year. The Sponsor an Alma Venture program and the faculty and staff giving campaign invited donors to invest in Alma students in new ways.

As part of the Alma Commitment, the Alma Venture Grant provides up to $2,500 to offset the cost of a personalized learning opportunity for any student who applies. With a gift of $2,500, donors can now sponsor an individual student pursuing a Venture — a research project, an internship, or off-campus study. Fifteen donors sponsored 40 Ventures in 2016-17, several meeting their student recipient at the annual Donor Scholar Lunch.

<em>Endowed scholarship donor Patricia Daily with student recipient Ashten Stambersky ’18.</em>Endowed scholarship donor Patricia Daily with student recipient Ashten Stambersky ’18.In addition, the college reached a 55 percent rate of staff and faculty giving, the first time in its history achieving a majority participation rate. Co-chairs Karen Ball, professor of integrative physiology and health science, and Kate Blanchard, professor of religious studies, led a campaign to increase faculty and staff participation in annual giving. Trustee Dave Devine ’90 supported this campaign with a $10,000 challenge gift to the college.

Emerging Traditions Thrive

The alumni of the Alma Choirs formed a giving circle — a group of volunteers who donate, raise, pool and grant funds together — in support of the college’s choral program. The group exceeded its $75,000 goal, raising more than $81,000 to support the choirs and conductor Will Nichols’ plans to increase their YouTube presence and send more singers on national and international tours.

In addition, for the second straight year, Alma College surpassed its goal for Giving Tuesday, the global movement for people to celebrate generosity and give to charitable causes. During the 24 hours of Tuesday, Nov. 29, alumni, parents and friends made 350 gifts to Alma College, exceeding the goal of 250 gifts and raising $90,078 in total. 

Alma Ambassador Program Recognized for Impact

In its second year and with more than 2,500 members, the Alma Ambassador program more than doubled in size, continuing to garner recognition. The Alma Ambassador Program is an effort to organize, support and promote volunteerism with the college, allowing participants to customize their involvement based on the time they have to give.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education crowned the Ambassador program as “Collaborative Program of the Year” in the Midwest. The Pride of CASE District V Awards Program honors colleges and universities showing “outstanding achievement in the concept and execution of advancement programs.”

Ninety-seven percent of Ambassadors have performed at least one meaningful service in admissions, advisory boards, campus activities, careers and internships, and philanthropy and stewardship.

Equally important, the Ambassador program provides critical support of the college’s admissions goals.

Through the referral program, if an Ambassador 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. Referrals have increased 27 percent percent to 1,200 referred students in 2016-17, compared to the previous 10-year average of fewer than 50 referrals. The Ambassador program’s impact on enrollment continues to grow with approximately 60 percent of this year’s incoming students referred by Ambassadors, up from 40 percent last year.

“The accomplishments of the past year have generated tremendous excitement and momentum in the broader Alma College community,” says vandenBerg. “Alma alumni, parents, faculty, staff and friends are banding together in unprecedented ways to perform vital work that is transforming our institution and propelling us into a new golden age. I seize every opportunity to remind them: a culture of philanthropy and engagement is taking hold at Alma because of you. Thank you!”

Story published on August 21, 2017