Advancement results for 2019–20

by Shelby Radcliffe, Vice President for Advancement,

VP Shelby Radcliffe shares the results of a successful fundraising and engagement year.

Dear Willamette Community, 

It has been an extraordinary year in so many ways with so many pressing demands, and often little opportunity to share non-urgent news, or connect personally. I'm constantly amazed and grateful by the work so many of you are undertaking to prepare for what will surely be an unusual academic year. In the midst of that chaos, I thought a campaign update might bring some happy news.

For fiscal year 2020, in spite of everything, we raised $19.1 million in new gifts and commitments, the third highest year in the history of Willamette, and the highest total raised since President Thorsett's inauguration. As important, given the measures of success on access and affordability approved by the board, 77% of the pledged commitments this year were for these priorities totaling $14.7 million. These include both endowed and current use scholarships for students generally — with 43 new ones. These new gifts will support an estimated 198 of students.

I'm excited to share that 32 families made Willamette a priority for their philanthropy at the major gift level (gifts and pledges of $100,000 or more) for a wide range of programs across the university. We have secured pledges in support of students and faculty in biology, history, math, psychology, Willamette Academy students attending Willamette, public health, science, Japanese studies, nonprofit management and MBA education at Atkinson, and the Willamette Public Interest Law program. We've also raised funds for the Office of Equity Diversity and Inclusion, and the Renjen Center, allowing for significant expansion of the Ohana and peer mentor programs in the Office of Multicultural Services and supporting this coming year's important EDI work on campus. We've received gifts and pledges for art acquisition at the Hallie Ford Museum, and the First Year Experience and Academic Support in the College of Arts and Sciences. We are particularly excited about the $6M gift from the Family Care Health, which is now the largest commitment to the campaign.

Our donor community showed special interest in emergency funds for students being impacted by COVID, and thanks to past gifts and new gifts this year, Willamette was able to support all of the requests received for emergency assistance with tuition and other expenses this spring.

In addition to this total commitments success, we raised over $2 million for the Annual Fund fund — once again setting a new record and reflecting increased support not only for the general annual fund, but the annual funds for AGSM and Law as well. These gifts allow Willamette to deepen our commitment to access and equity, innovation and scholarships — all urgent priorities. I'm particularly grateful to the faculty and staff who support the Annual Fund and helped us to reach this important milestone.

chart showing rise in yearly fundraising from $1,253,616 in FY2014 gradually rising each year to $2,025,144 in FY2020

While we remain in the quiet phase of our campaign, we have raised $65 million in commitments, 44% of our working goal of $150 million, and we are on pace to achieve success by 2024. One of the campaign objectives is to elevate the average giving year over year. Our average since the end of the last campaign was $10 million per year. Since the current campaign started, we are at a new average of $17 million a year.

Of course, with the pandemic, we had to cancel over 45 events scheduled for the spring and summer, including alumni weekend, but thanks to many people we were able to pivot over to virtual content for things like WUStream, and a virtual SSRD day which was hugely popular with parents and donors alike.

This pivot had been part of our strategy, but it was implemented faster and more intensively, including all of the colleges, alumni, and many faculty and staff who helped us deliver content in the midst of adjusting their own work and teaching, for which we are truly grateful. We've learned a lot in the process and look forward to working with many in our community to design and deliver content and activities that are interesting, educational and continue to highlight the education and experiences that can only be found at Willamette.

You might be wondering what the fall will look like for fundraising. One thing we know from the 2008 recession is that there can be a lagging impact on donors' giving larger gifts or bringing in new donors in the short term, but it's important for us to keep engaging our alumni community right now. Many donors want to help, particularly students with need, and even when they aren't able to give, they want to help in other ways as volunteers helping with admissions, networking, internship, career and placement opportunities. Many donors are coming forward to let us know about planned gifts. So we need to keep going, and keep asking.

The most remarkable part of the last three months has been the way barriers presented to us by the virus have been almost irrelevant because our community keeps coming forward. Since March, our faculty and staff have generously supported more than two dozen updates to our broader Willamette family through Zoom meetings about the admissions process, CST, science education, Willamette Academy, COVID-19 response, the Business Lawyering Institute, AGSM updates and more. Now, more than ever, the Willamette family is stepping up to support our students and our mission, with scholarship gifts even being made this summer. They join us, ready to face the challenges ahead. And I am grateful to you for all you do to sustain our community and inspire our alumni.


Willamette University

University Communications

Waller Hall, Fourth Floor
900 State Street
Salem Oregon 97301 U.S.A.

Back to Top