Ever seen what $777.8 million dollars in donations looks like? Neither had Cornell — until this year.
Due to the generous donations of alumni, Cornell had its best fundraising year on record, raising $777.8 million in the 2011-12 fiscal year, compared to $308.2 million in the 2010-11 fiscal year.
More than $31.4 million of total gifts were raised by the Cornell Annual Fund, which broke its fundraising record for the tenth year in a row, according to Charles Phlegar, vice president for alumni affairs and development. Phlegar attributed the outpouring of philanthropic gifts to “extremely loyal” alumni who are dedicated to the University.
“Any time a university has a great year, or one of their best years, or their best year — like we did — it’s always because there’s something extraordinary happening,” he said.
Phlegar said that several large donations — such as Chuck Feeney’s ’56 $350-million donation to the tech campus and Lisa and Richard Baker’s ’88 $11-million donation to the School of Hotel Administration’s Real Estate program — made it possible for Cornell to raise as much money as it did this year. The gifts, he said, make a “huge difference.”
“The large gifts are so important to the overall total,” Phlegar said, adding “it doesn’t hurt to have a big victory like the tech campus.”Phlegar also said that under President David Skorton’s leadership, Cornell has also been successful in obtaining funds for many of its new initiatives and building projects.
For instance, he said, the University raised $35 million of the $50 million it has planned to raise for faculty renewal, an initiative to hire new faculty ahead of an expected wave of retirements.
Administrators also expressed pride about the $31.4 million raised by the Cornell Annual Fund, a program that seeks to reach out to alumni for philanthropic gifts. Donations given to the Annual Fund are unrestricted, or able to be used immediately across the University — a feature that Joseph Lyons ’98, director of the Cornell Annual Fund, said allows the University to be “as agile as possible.”
Lyons said that, regardless of the size of each gift, it was “extraordinarily gratifying” to see the dedication and commitment of alumni to the University.
“Some may think that a modest gift does not matter … [but] it couldn't be further from the truth,” Lyons said. “Just as each individual voice at a Big Red game combines to create a powerful roar, each individual gift — at any level — combines to create an enormous impact on the University.”
Those who make phone calls for the Annual Fund say they also see this.
Stephanie Van Overberghe ’15, an Annual Fund caller, said that she enjoys working for the fund because of the impact it has on the University.“It does so much for the University; one of the things we tell the alumni is that it basically supports anything that enhances the Cornell experience,” she said.
Van Overberghe recalled the energy in the room when she worked a shift in which the Annual Fund was expected to break a fundraising record.
“It’s always fun when you get the shift where it’s like, ‘Oh, we’re going to break a million dollars,’” she said. “The excitement in the air just made it that much better to call [alumni that night].”
Emily Buller ’15, another Annual Fund caller, said that, given the tough economic climate, it “feels great” that Cornell is still successfully fundraising.