The Bowdoin alumni fund is doing better than ever despite nation-wide economic hardships due to the coronavirus pandemic. The fund has recorded 5,332 individual donors so far this fiscal year, a 38.5 percent increase from last year when 3,851 donors had contributed by this same date. In terms of revenues, the fund is running about 10 percent higher than at this point last year, according to Senior Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Scott Meiklejohn.
“In times of crisis, people step up, and the Bowdoin community has done that, as it has done in prior periods of challenge,” Senior Vice President of Finance and Administration Matt Orlando said in a Zoom interview with the Orient. “It helps to have our unrestricted giving up this year to offset some of the revenue losses.”
Meiklejohn attributed this year’s rise in contributions to October’s “Ripple Effect” campaign. To mark the creation of the new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) designation within the alumni fund, any alumni gift made from October 5 to October 11 unlocked an additional $100 gift to support DEI from an anonymous donor. In that one week, the College received donations from 1,944 individual alumni.
“[Ripple Effect] got a great response,” Meiklejohn said in a phone interview with the Orient. “That’s the main reason why we’ve been running ahead since October; that early boost.”
Since DEI was designated as a category within the alumni fund, 6.8 percent of all gifts made have been earmarked for that purpose. However, according to Meiklejohn, 67.9 percent of gifts this year have been made unrestricted.
Meiklejohn expected Bowdoin OneDay, which was yesterday, to provide another boost. Last April, the College chose to postpone the annual fundraising event in which alumni and friends of the College are encouraged to make a contribution in honor of their “Bowdoin Hero.” In past years, the event has been run as a multi-week campaign, but this year it will just be one day.
“I hope it’ll be a great community-oriented day for Bowdoin at a time when we’re not all in the community [physically] in the way we’d like to be,” Meiklejohn said. “I hope it’ll be a reminder of what this community is.”
Looking towards longer-term goals, February 6 marked the one-year anniversary of the public phase of the College’s From Here capital campaign. According to Meiklejohn, just under $379 million has been raised so far in gifts and pledges, or 70 percent of the campaign’s $500 million goal, which it still plans to reach by June 2024.
“Our pacing towards $500 million is great,” said Meiklejohn. “We’ve added approximately $70 million since a year ago … [so] we’re feeling really optimistic about it.”
Orlando described that not all of the campaign’s revenues will be saved until its completion; some contributions will be spent immediately to balance out revenue losses in the College’s budget.
“The campaign’s a very dynamic animal,” Orlando said. “Some [of the money that comes in] might be pledged, so we’re not going to see the dollars for five years, whereas the annual fund will be spent immediately. It depends on what bucket it falls into. There are things that require accumulation of funds to really make a difference.”
While overall alumni fund revenues have increased by 10 percent from the previous year, the amount of money going into the Polar Bear Athletic Fund (PBAF), a subset of the alumni fund dedicated to providing for resources within the athletic department, has decreased by 34 percent. Meiklejohn said that, given the relatively small size of the fund and the fact that the major appeal for the fund won’t go out until March, it’s too early to draw any conclusions.
The alumni fund is by far the largest subset of the College’s annual giving program, followed by the parents’ fund. The PBAF and friends fund combined contain around $400,000—just three percent of the $13 million alumni fund.