Alumni giving, engagement breaks records in 2017

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John Carberry

Cornell engages thousands of alumni, parents and friends around the world, and with their support, the university achieved fundraising records in fiscal year (FY) 2017.

The university raised a record $743.5 million in cash gifts for all campuses, a 21 percent increase over total cash gifts in FY16. New gifts and commitments totaled $642 million, a 15.75 percent increase over FY16. The $475 million in new gifts and commitments to the Ithaca campus breaks the record set in FY15. And the Cornell Annual Funds brought in a historic $41.7 million, surpassing $40 million for the first time.

In all, more than 61,500 alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff members and friends gave financially, including more than 6,000 first-time donors.

“With this tremendous outpouring of support, Cornellians all over the world demonstrate confidence in the future of the university and the important role we play in contributing to a better world,” said Fred Van Sickle, vice president for alumni affairs and development. “These gifts came at time of great transition and anticipation for Cornell, with the arrival of our new president, Martha Pollack.”

A defining gift in FY17 came from Trustee Emeritus H. Fisk Johnson ’79, M.Eng. ’80, M.S. ’82, MBA ’84, Ph.D. ’86, who, with SC Johnson, committed $150 million to name the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

“With the naming of Cornell’s business college and key advancements toward the September 2017 opening of Cornell Tech, future generations of Cornellians will remember FY17 as a year of historic momentum,” Van Sickle said.

FY17 also will be remembered as the year the Cornell Annual Funds broke the $40 million mark.

“Every gift to the Cornell Annual Funds from every generous donor counts toward this incredible accomplishment of $41.7 million,” said Paul Salvatore '81, J.D. '84, 2017 chair of the Cornell Annual Funds.

Matt Siegel, senior director of Cornell Annual Giving Programs, said the excitement was palpable building toward the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

“With this record in the books, we’re seeing this $41.7 million at work – the opportunities for students, the research funding for faculty, the program support,” said Siegel. “Cornell’s generous donors really understand that their gifts benefit the projects and causes they care about most.”

Cornell Giving Day 2017, held on “Pi Day” March 14, demonstrated the cumulative impact that alumni, parents and friends can have by supporting programs across Cornell that mean the most to them. Some 8,640 donors gave 12,209 gifts for a total of $6,321,962, much of that directed to college and unit department budgets.

“The boost Giving Day provided to the college and unit fundraising efforts enabled nearly all of the programs to exceed their goals for 2017,” said Kristen Ford, associate vice president for colleges and units.

“Even more extraordinary was the increase we saw in new donors throughout the year,” she said. “This is a strong testament to the spirit and enthusiasm our alumni, parents and friends share for Cornell.”

Giving is only one way that alumni, parents and friends of Cornell engaged with the university in FY17. More than 90,000 alumni worldwide connected with the university by attending an event, giving a gift, interacting with Cornell through social media, volunteering for a local club or any number of other activities. A record 7,619 alumni and guests attended Reunion 2017.

Significantly, there was an increase in voting for alumni-elected trustees in FY17. The highest number of alumni in five years cast votes, electing Sheila Wilson Allen ’76, DVM ’81, and Linda Gadsby ’88 to four-year terms on the Cornell University Board of Trustees.

“Our alumni know that they have a voice and a responsibility to influence the university’s highest decision-making body,” said Loreal Maguire, director of volunteer programs. “There is a growing awareness among Cornell alumni about the role of a trustee and about what alumni-elected trustees experience during their terms. This is a reason so many alumni engaged in a positive way by voting for the representatives who will move the university forward in the coming years.”

Service and giving go hand in hand, said Van Sickle: “Our worldwide community is vast and generous, providing the support and connection Cornell needs to do good work moving forward.”

Kate Klein is a writer for Alumni Affairs and Development.


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