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2017-18: A Top 3 Year for Private Support

“I am grateful for and humbled by the tremendous outpouring of support for Alma College by alumni, parents and friends this year.” — Jeff Abernathy

Ribbon-cutting for the Gerstacker Science and Technology Suite.Ribbon-cutting for the Gerstacker Science and Technology Suite.For the third consecutive year, donors provided Alma College with more than $15 million in gifts and pledges. The last three fundraising years are the top three years in college history.

Alma also has set new all-time records for annual giving, or gifts that help strengthen Alma’s budget and improve operations, for the past three years. In 2017-18 donors made more than $1,900,000 in annual gifts, surpassing an ambitious target of $1,450,000. These gifts expand Alma’s budget for the current or upcoming fiscal year and empower donors to support the college’s greatest needs or their favorite program or department.

This year donors provided support for the college’s greatest needs, student scholarships, academic and athletics programs, and the endowment. Giving to academic programs, both generally and to specific departments, increased by 118 percent over the previous year to nearly $200,000. Donor support of the athletics program (in general and of individual teams) reached an all-time high with more than $334,000 in gifts to the Scot Loyalty Fund.

This year fundraising enabled completion of the newly renovated Gerstacker Science and Technology Suite, formerly an open-air courtyard and now a hub for science instruction and research; the football and lacrosse locker room; and a special initiative to refresh instrument inventory for the bands and percussion ensemble. Funds also supported the opera house project, which kicked off a public campaign on Aug. 16, 2018, and has already raised more than $4.4 million toward its $5 million goal.

“I am grateful for and humbled by the tremendous outpouring of support for Alma College by alumni, parents and friends this year,” says President Jeff Abernathy. “The students who arrive on campus this fall will immediately see and feel the effects of their incredible generosity.”

Rising to the Challenge

Several groups of alumni, parents and friends seized impactful ways to give back to Alma College. The Kiltie Bands and Percussion Ensemble Giving Circle exceeded its initial goal of $50,000 and raised more than $100,000 to purchase new instruments, fund student travel and more for student musicians.

Alma's student phonathon callers.Alma's student phonathon callers.Football and lacrosse alumni, parents and friends also formed a steering committee to raise funds to renovate the programs’ shared locker room space. The group raised more than $350,000 to create a functional, modern locker room where the football and lacrosse teams can prepare for games, review strategy and recruit for the future.

This year Alma College saw a dramatic upswing in the number of young graduates who financially support the institution. Kim Taylor ’83, a college trustee, challenged young alumni to grow in their philanthropy toward their alma mater. For each young alumnus who made a gift by June 30, Kim provided a $50 match — up to 500 donors and a total challenge gift of $25,000. Alma’s young alumni responded enthusiastically, exceeding that goal with a remarkable 517 donors, more than double last year’s total.

Award-winning Programs

For the second year in a row, the Alma Ambassador Program™, Alma College’s comprehensive volunteer engagement initiative, won a gold award in a competition sponsored by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE).

Alma College, which received three other awards for outreach programs designed to engage alumni and friends in the life of the college, was one of only two private liberal arts institutions to receive four awards.

From left: Alumni Bill Moss, Emalee Rose, Bill McHenry II and Matt vandenBerg receive the Pride of CASE V awards.From left: Alumni Bill Moss, Emalee Rose, Bill McHenry II and Matt vandenBerg receive the Pride of CASE V awards.The Pride of CASE District V Awards Program honors colleges and universities that demonstrate “outstanding achievement in the concept and execution of advancement programs.”

The “Sponsor an Alma Venture” program won a bronze award in the “Best Program in Donor Recognition/Stewardship” category. The program matches donors of significant unrestricted gifts with students who are about to embark on their Alma Venture — a personal experience consistent with their academic plan, such as study abroad, internship or hands-on research, or service opportunities.

The “Discover Alma Dinner Series” program received a bronze award in the “Excellence in Special Events/Series of Events” category and an honorable mention in the “Best Collaborative Programs” category. The program invites prospective students and families to network with faculty, coaches and others with shared interests to explore the career possibilities of their intended major.

The annual Pride of CASE V awards showcase best practices in alumni relations, fundraising, advancement services, special events and outstanding communications. Alma College representatives accepted the awards at the annual CASE V conference, which took place Dec. 10-12 in Chicago.

Special Days for Scots

For the third year Alma College participated in Giving Tuesday, the global movement for people to celebrate generosity and give to charitable causes. Trustee Eric Blackhurst ’83, Ed Kain ’76, and Paul ’81 and Carol Burns made pledges that enhanced the gifts of first-time donors, which helped expand Alma’s base of support by a remarkable 127 people on a goal of 100. In total, 397 alumni, parents and friends provided $164,204 for Alma College over the 24 hours of Giving Tuesday.

Faculty, alumni, parents and friends support Giving Tuesday.Faculty, alumni, parents and friends support Giving Tuesday.Alma College alumni, parents and friends also joined together on Friday, June 1 to celebrate the first-ever Alma Day. This online fundraising event invited Scots to help Alma College finish the fiscal year on a high note, helping reach ambitious fundraising goals for several critical projects. Donors inspired others to join them by writing posts and sharing favorite Alma College memories on Facebook.

Alma Ambassador Program Grows

The Alma Ambassador program grew to 3,129 volunteers in its third year. 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.

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

BalloonsThe 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 an additional 10 percent over the last year to 1,318 referred students in 2017-18. Prior to the implementation of the Alma Ambassador Program, the college averaged fewer that 50 student referrals per year. The Ambassador program’s impact on enrollment continues to grow with approximately 55 percent of this year’s incoming students referred by Ambassadors.

“This has been an incredible year, with alumni, parents, friends, faculty and staff embracing Alma College through their engagement and philanthropy like never before in our history,” says Vice President for Advancement Matt vandenBerg. “In turn, our campus culture of gratitude for all that we have been given continues to deepen and grow. Campus is infused with energy and excitement for what lies ahead for Alma College.” 

Story published on September 04, 2018