UVM fundraising campaign reaches goal 11 months early

Sawyer Loftus, Senior Staff Writer

Previously deemed a “stretch goal,” the UVM Move Mountains campaign reached its $500 million financial goal nearly a year ahead of schedule.

The campaign was in a “silent,” or planning phase, from 2011 until 2015 when it was officially announced to the public, according to an October 2015 UVM press release.

The campaign was aimed at raising funds for all aspects of the University, said Shane Jacobson, president and CEO of the UVM Foundation.

The campaign focuses on four broad priorities: improving financial aid and scholarships for students, improving facilities, creating more endowed faculty positions and enhancing academic research, Jacobson said.

When it was  announced in 2015, the campaign had already raised $247,636,555 of the $500 million goal, according to the October 2015 release.

When the board of trustees, the UVM Foundation and UVM President Tom Sullivan were looking into the creation of the fundraising campaign in 2011, $500 million was initially identified as a “stretch goal,” knowing that the last fundraising campaign nearly a decade ago only yielded about $250 million, Jacobson said.

“The fact that we have arrived at $500 million eleven months early is a testament to the donors, many of whom are alumni or friends of UVM, who have really decided this is a special place that deserves their support,” he said.

The campaign has received nearly 172 thousand donations from a little over 70,000 donors, Jacobson said.

The campaign has lead to physical changes on campus, including the creation or renovation of 20 buildings on campus including the Larner school of medicine, which was made possible by a $66 million gift from Robert and Helen Larner in 2015, Jacobson said.

Similarly, a 2015 gift of $20 million from Steven Grossman changed the face of UVM’s business school, and donations have helped aid the funding for a new STEM facility Jacobson said.

The top priority for the campaign was to increase financial support available to students, Jacobson said.

The foundation was able to generate nearly $78 million for new student scholarships and doubled endowed faculty positions and chairs, Jacobson said.

“We Identified very early on in this campaign that supporting students was a top priority,” Jacobson said. “I think that we’re all pretty proud of the fact that we’ve been able to generate that level of support.”

Donors contributed to the campaign for many reasons, but most importantly to improve student experience, Jacobson said

“I think what we’ve found most often is that they give to the University of Vermont because they want to positively impact a student’s experience here on campus,” he said. “If they support scholarships they know that their gifts are providing access and to help students and families to afford higher education.”

Other gifts were made because donor’s understand the financial struggles the University faces, Jacobson said. As the University is not fully funded by the state of Vermont, nor is it fully funded by tuition revenues, donors feel “responsible” for the University, he said.

Donor contributions come in two forms, known as “restricted,” where funds are legally bound to the donor’s wishes, and “unrestricted” gifts that are at the discretion of the president to use, Jacobson said.

The majority of gifts received in the campaign were unrestricted, but in terms of dollars more money came in the restricted category, Jacobson said.

UVM President Tom Sullivan stated that the campaign has transformed the university in an Aug. 1 press release.

“This transformative accomplishment reflects the passion, generosity and hard work of thousands of donors, volunteers, and staff members who have put their shoulders to the mountainside since the beginning of the campaign,” Sullivan said.  “We owe the ongoing success of this campaign to them and are deeply grateful.”

Going forward, the campaign will continue to accept donations to ease financial burdens on UVM students, increase the number of endowed faculty positions and to fund a number of physical projects including the construction of a new multi-purpose center, Jacobson said.