Olivet College fundraising has increased more in the past three years than it has in the entire history of the nearly 175-year-old college. The record-breaking fundraising is having a transformative impact on its 1,100 current students and will continue to do so for future generations of students.
Olivet President Steven M. Corey, Ph.D., and the entire college community are extremely pleased with this trend. “Alumni play a large role in determining the future and continued development of Olivet,” said President Corey. “Not only have financial contributions increased in the last three years, the percentage of alumni giving has also increased in those years.”
Much of this growth is spurred by the Responsible Learners – Responsible Leaders: Olivet College 2020 and Beyond comprehensive campaign that was launched to create and fund Olivet’s strategic plan.
During Homecoming last fall, the college publicly announced the campaign to raise $44 million. To date, the college has raised over $38 million in gifts and pledges – 86 percent of its goal.
“We remain committed to education for individual and social responsibility. With a student body comprised of an uncommon degree of inclusion and geographic and socioeconomic diversity, Olivet College offers a tremendous experience and advantage for its graduates over those from other colleges, allowing their responsible leadership to reach all corners of society,” said Corey. “But, in order to carry out this vision, we must make necessary investments in our academic and co-curricular programs, campus facilities and equipment, and faculty and staff to drive and support this critical positioning of the college.”
The campaign will fund priorities across campus that are crucial to building on the college’s strength of empowering students to be responsible leaders. The campaign supports priorities in academics, co-curricular programs, athletics, campus beautification and sustainability and operations across four major content areas including: enriching the student experience; learning to lead on the playing field; creating a vibrant campus and community; growing and sustaining the college of the future.
Among the initiatives of the campaign are three major building projects:
- Renovation of Mott Academic Center, the primary learning facility on campus.
- Expansion and enhancement of current athletic facilities.
- Creation of a new building called the Student Center, an exciting, inclusive place for all students to gather.
Alumni have responded to the comprehensive campaign with unprecedented support. “Giving to the college has increased from approximately $2 million annually, to an average of $10.3 million per year during the past three years,” said BJ Hull, Olivet’s vice president for advancement. The college has experienced the three greatest single years of fundraising in its history, surpassing $12 million raised in a single year twice.
“We have received over 6,400 gifts from almost 2,000 people during this campaign,” said Hull. “Of those donors, 57 percent have given up to $250 each. All gifts matter to the campaign and we want every alumnus to be a part of this campaign no matter the level of their donation. National evaluations and rankings of colleges and universities often include the percentage of alumni who give annually as one of their factors of quality. The college is pleased so many alumni are participating.”
This campaign has already, and will continue to add new and expanded programs for student participation. “Campaign funding will provide new and updated physical spaces on campus to allow for engagement and learning beyond the classroom and their dorm rooms, and it will grow the endowment to benefit the entire college 20, 40, even 100 years into the future,” said Hull.
Two areas of significant increase have been gifts to the overall campaign and through estate gifts to fund new endowments. “Nine gifts were in excess of $1 million,” said Hull. “We have also received 29 estate commitments creating 25 new endowments to support the future of the college. President Corey and the advancement team developed a relationship-based major gift program working with alumni and friends that have the greatest ability to make substantial, institutional changing gifts.”
Olivet has also expanded its annual giving program to ensure all alumni are offered the opportunity to give annually in a number of convenient ways. “Our job is educating potential donors about their giving options. Some alumni choose to send $10 per month as a direct payment from their bank account, similar to paying a utility bill. Ten dollars per month adds up quickly to make a $120 annual gift for the college,” said Hull.
Increase in Alumni Engagement
Olivet has also hosted 26 Responsible Learners – Responsible Leaders campaign roll-out events in cities across the country and may add a few more based on alumni requests. President Corey and the advancement team are meeting intentionally with alumni to build relationships and to share how the historic campaign is helping to shape the future of Olivet College. The focused outreach to alumni across the country is new and uncharted waters for the college, but one the alumni are enjoying.
“Olivet alumni are passionate about their alma mater and want to support its continued growth,” said Joy Wiseman, Olivet’s senior regional director of development. “Our alumni think beyond themselves. So many want to support students directly because they are aware that someone helped them, so now it’s their turn to pay it back – and they take this responsibility seriously. I have found that Olivet alumni quite often wish to support a specific academic department, project, or students directly through an endowed scholarship.”
Wiseman reported that many endowed scholarships are funded by alumni. “Nearly 85 percent of endowed scholarships were established by alumni, friends of the college, or past administration/staff members.” In addition to financial gifts, some alumni chose to purchase equipment for departments, sponsor internships, work with department chairs, and even help with freshmen Move-In Day.
“This campaign is important to continue Olivet’s growth and development, and to remain competitive for what students want and need for their education,” said Wiseman. “Students today are applying to multiple colleges before making their top pick. Olivet must ensure it has what today’s students seek in a college experience. It may be the dorm facilities, professors, updated classrooms, athletic facilities, social outlets, food service, scholarship opportunities, and all of this takes money.”
Teaching Students to Give Back
The theme of social responsibility is taught to students through the Olivet College Compact from the beginning of their Olivet education. Freshmen take a class called self and community, which outlines the seven components of the Olivet College Compact, including responsibility for the development and growth of the college.
One example is the Olivet Gives Day, new in 2018. “This was a competition between classes, faculty and staff with online videos and social media posts about giving,” Hull said. “Olivet also established the Student Philanthropy Council for those looking to work in the non-profit sector and to educate others about why it’s important to give back.”
Olivet also strategically placed an annual giving director as one of the senior class advisers, allowing for constant engagement with students. “Having established a relationship before graduation will make it easier for young alumni to stay connected to Olivet College and have a better understanding of the importance of philanthropy,” Hull said. “Faculty are also talking about the tangible gifts from alumni that students use daily in their classrooms. Our goal is for students to hear about alumni giving back and be able to appreciate those contributions so that in time, they may be donors in the future.”
Sustaining the Future
Working in partnership with alumni, friends and supporters through greater engagement and involvement and philanthropic investment will ensure that the students of Olivet College are empowered to be the responsible leaders of tomorrow. “We are in awe of the support Olivet College is receiving. Every dollar and every hour of time an alumnus invests is enhancing the strength and vitality of Olivet College,” said President Corey. “The many gifts of time, talent and treasure truly have an immediate and lasting impact not only on our campus, but in communities and countries served by our graduates around the world.”
By Jacki Bounds