Total fundraising for the College declined in fiscal year 2014 (FY 2014) but the alumni participation rate increased. During President Barry Mills’ final year, FY 2015, the College is hoping to raise $153.5 million to fund three specific initiatives. 

Total fundraising declined from $46.1 million in FY13 to $41 million in FY 2014, while the alumni participation rate increased from 59 percent in FY 2013 to 59.3 percent in FY 2014, the highest rate since FY 2008.

Of the $153.5 million goal for FY 2015, $100 million is part of the financial aid initiative that President Barry Mills announced last May.  

According to the Senior Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Rick Ganong ’86, the College is also seeking $21 million for the development of a new Coastal Studies Center and $21 million to expand its Digital and Computational Studies Initiative.

Ganong explained that Mills identified these initiatives as opportunities to make a final impact before he steps down this July.  

“Out of the $140 million, we’re over halfway there and we still have a lot of lines in the water,” said Ganong. 

Fundraising may shift when President-elect Clayton Rose takes over, but Ganong is optimistic about the new president. 

“He built a global equities business at J.P. Morgan. He’s raised money. He’s met with hundreds if not thousands of people. He’s going to be fabulous and we’ll hit the ground running. That having been said, he’s got some big shoes to fill,” Ganong said.

Bowdoin has had incredible fundraising success under President Mills and its endowment has grown substantially. At the end of Mills’ first year, FY 2002, the endowment was valued at $430,623,000, according to the National Association of College and University Business Officers and at the end of FY 2014, the endowment was valued at $1.216 billion

Bowdoin’s most recent capital campaign raised a total of $293 million between 2004 and 2009 and was the largest capital campaign in the College’s history.

“We will do another capital campaign; it’s probably a few years out. I think President-elect Rose needs to get to campus first and understand Bowdoin,” said Ganong. “When he, with the Board of Trustees, identifies certain projects or initiatives or a vision for Bowdoin and we know what we need to raise the money for, then I think we’ll structure the campaign and go do that.”
Annual Fundraising

Of the $41 million raised in FY 2014, approximately $11 million was classified as annual giving and the other $30 million was designated as capital gifts. Annual gifts, usually unrestricted, are spent each year and comprise approximately six percent of the College’s operating budgetCapital gifts include contributions to the general endowment or to specific funds or projects such as a new building or an endowed scholarship or faculty position. 

The alumni participation rate is calculated based on a total of 16,583 reachable alumni. Some living alumni are not included in the College’s calculation because they request to be put on a do-not-solicit list. The College's alumni participation rate, which was 59.3 percent in FY14, is one of the highest in the country according to a U.S News and World Report list from December 2014.  

The College’s goal for alumni participation was 60 percent in FY 2014 according to an Orient article from last February. According to Ganong, 60 percent remains the goal for FY 2015. He explained that in addition to being symbolic, alumni giving rates are critical because they affect rankings such as those published by U.S. News and World Report and Forbes, as well as the college’s bond rating. 

Getting alumni to return to campus has proved to be an effective technique for increasing giving. According to Ganong, alumni who return to campus are more likely to give (and give more) than those who do not visit. Consequently, class reunions are an important part of Bowdoin’s strategy.

In 2013 Bowdoin began an annual one-day campaign to increase participation. During last year’s Bowdoin One Day campaign the College received 1,520 alumni gifts. 

Additionally, strategic targeting and cultivation is a factor in fundraising.

“When you throw your hook in the water, you want to catch a big fish right? When we fundraise, we recognize that the college has needs and if we can get an extra zero on the check that’s very important for us,” Ganong said. “I think cultivation takes time. We’ve had meetings with many alumni, many parents, and sometimes its the second, third, fourth, fifth meeting where they say, ‘Ok, this is a great idea.’”

While an increasing number of philanthropic organizations and causes solicit donations from Bowdoin’s giving network, Ganong believes this has not detracted from their enthusiasm for giving to Bowdoin.

Giving to Bowdoin increases the value of a Bowdoin degree, he said. 

“If we stop investing in Bowdoin, the value of that diploma is going to stay the same or could even drop.” 

Editor's note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the Polar Bear Athletic Fund was a capital initiative. It is, in fact, a largely unrestricted annual fund designated for use by the athletic department.