Cornell sets new records for giving and engagement

In support of the To Do the Greatest Good campaign, new gifts and commitments to the university reached $924 million in fiscal year 2022 – the highest amount raised in Cornell’s history and exceeding last year’s record-setting total by 12%.

An affordability initiative, a key part of the current campaign, aims to raise $500 million in endowment and current-use funds to ensure that a Cornell education is accessible and affordable. This past fiscal year, $141 million has been raised towards affordability – a nearly 250% increase over dollars donated in the previous year, largely thanks to a historic gift from Peter and Stephanie Nolan.

“Being a university for ‘any person’ is at the heart of our institutional identity, and key to our academic excellence,” said President Martha E. Pollack. “Cornellians have a profound appreciation for the importance of student affordability to our mission, and it’s been incredibly heartening to see the way they’ve responded to this campaign: more than 6,000 of our alumni have designated their campaign gifts toward affordability so far.”

The university offers an affordability challenge match commitment, which contributes an additional dollar for every $2 given by endowed scholarship donors. Affordability funds raised during fiscal year 2022 generated 187 new or enhanced scholarships.   

Fundraising on the Ithaca campus reached its highest-ever total, raising $697 million – a 17% increase over the 2021 record. More than 42,300 supporters made gifts of less than $1,000; of those, nearly 18,000 donors gave more than once during the year.

“Our results are a testament to the collective spirit of our Big Red team of donors, volunteers, university leaders and staff doing the greatest good,” said Fred Van Sickle, vice president for alumni affairs and development. “I am so grateful for the generosity of our donors in all they do to help positively impact our students and faculty across the globe.”

More than 41,000 alumni, parents, friends, faculty and staff contributed $55 million to current-use annual funds throughout the fiscal year – the second-best year on record. Annual fund gifts provide a crucial portion of Cornell’s flexible funding each year and help students make the most of their Cornell experience.

“I’ve seen firsthand how much students benefit from gifts made to annual funds,” said Anne Meinig Smalling ’87, campaign co-chair. “These gifts provide a key part of Cornell’s funding each year and are integral in supporting programs and opportunities that inspire transformational journeys inside and outside of the classroom. I hope everyone considers joining me in making a gift to the annual fund that is most meaningful to them.”

After two years of engaging through online events, thousands of Cornellians returned to Ithaca this year to re-engage with campus and one another. In-person events included a special Cornell Leadership Week in March (combining Trustee-Council Annual Meeting, the President’s Council of Cornell Women symposium and the Cornell Alumni Leadership Conference); Family Fellows Weekend; and Reunion 2022. Around 5,500 alumni, family and friends traveled to Ithaca in June 2022 to celebrate Reunion, including a record-setting 70th Reunion that brought back 25 classmates from the Class of 1952.

Cornell’s eighth Giving Day brought together nearly 16,000 alumni, students, faculty, staff, parents and friends from more than 80 countries making gifts totaling a record-breaking $12,268,629. Students in the classes of 2022 and 2023 gave the most gifts of all Cornell classes.

“So many alumni were happy to talk about their experiences and share their stories with me around Giving Day,” said Sage Printup ’22, a student ambassador in Cornell’s Alumni Affairs and Development’s phoning and texting program. “One woman told me that she usually makes her annual gift at the end of the year, but after learning about all of the matching that occurs during Giving Day, she decided to change that to increase her impact.”

Cornellians continued to stay connected digitally as well. The 2022 Alumni Trustee Election saw the highest voter participation in the last five years with more than 19,640 voters. Cornell’s new digital-first publication, Cornellians, has engaged more than 233,000 unique users from 178 countries worldwide since its launch in fall 2021.

“What an incredible year it’s been,” said Michelle Vaeth ’98, associate vice president for alumni affairs. “Despite pandemic challenges, for the second year in a row, we have set a new all-time alumni engagement record, engaging over 95,500 students and alumni this year. I’m so grateful to the division and our partners across the university, as well as our mighty volunteers who all played a large role in helping us achieve this great result.”

Starr Todd is a writer for Alumni Affairs and Development.

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Rebecca Valli