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Shelby Holland ’18, left, and Kennedi Williams-Libert ’17 at the Cornell Alumni Leadership Conference in February.

Gifts to Cornell continue record-breaking trend

Alumni, parents and friends gave to Cornell in significant amounts during fiscal year 2019, including surpassing an Annual Funds record set just 12 months earlier.

The university received more than $550 million in new gifts and commitments in FY19, including $340 million raised for the Ithaca and Cornell Tech campuses and $210 million for Weill Cornell Medicine. More than 80,000 donors contributed to these results.

Senior Class Campaign executive board members are pictured at a dinner. Top row, from left: Sameer Nanda ’19; Will Gusick ’19; Fred Van Sickle, vice president for AAD; Dustin Liu ’19; Kendra Saldana ’12, assistant director of Young Alumni Giving. Bottom row, left to right: Alyssa Watson ’19; Allison Wild ’19; Kathie Duperval ’19; Molly Pushner ’19; Sam Markiewitz ’19.

“With incredible teamwork across our three main campuses, Cornell [saw] an 8% increase [in giving] over 2018,” said Fred Van Sickle, vice president for alumni affairs and development (AAD). “We are very grateful for the more than 80,000 donors, volunteer leaders and staff who came together to make these results possible.”

Nearly 85,000 Cornellians engaged with the university in FY19, including a record number of alumni who returned with their friends and families to attend Homecoming and Reunion. Thousands of others participated in Cornell alumni events based in communities around the world, and more than 10,000 alumni engaged in online experiences, such as the Cornell Forbes 30 Under 30 digital event.

Gifts made to the Cornell Annual Funds totaled $45.8 million – surpassing the FY18 record of $44.4 million.

“Of the last 17 years, 16 have been record-breaking,” said Tom LaFalce ’94, acting director of Annual Giving Programs. “We are fortunate to have such loyal support from our alumni, parents and friends.”

Unlike the endowment, Annual Fund dollars are available to use right away where they are needed most, benefiting current students.

“This allows our deans and other university leaders to address their most pressing needs,” LaFalce said, “including student financial aid, development of new educational programs, and support for experiences like internships and attendance at conferences.”

Recent Annual Fund gifts have funded expanded library hours during exam periods, supported undergraduate student research projects, enabled Big Red athletics to recruit top athletes and purchase equipment, added 2,770 new plants to the Cornell Botanic Gardens, and helped students to study off campus and abroad.

Giving Day, March 14, saw more records fall: A total of 13,858 donors contributed $7,869,264 to Cornell; the total number of gifts was the highest received on any single day in Cornell history. And the number of students who gave on Giving Day, 1,985, was more than double the total of two years ago (933).

In 2019, nearly one-third of all graduating seniors made a gift to the Senior Class Campaign, a significant increase in participation over the past few years. 

Today’s seniors have the option to give to the fund of their choice. Some choose to give to their colleges, while others give to specific beneficiaries, such as Cornell Cinema, Women’s Ultimate Frisbee or the library. Senior class gifts in 2019 ranged from $5 to $2,500.

“Our message to seniors is, ‘Hey everyone, there is something at Cornell that you love,’” said Kendra Saldana ’12, assistant director of Young Alumni Giving and staff adviser to the Senior Class Campaign student team. “The senior campaign lets you give to what you love.”

The full version of this story can be read at Giving to Cornell.

Linda Copman is a writer for Alumni Affairs and Development.

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John Carberry