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Annual Fund Record Has Ripples Across Campus

Air View of Colby-Sawyer in the '80s  

Air view of the Colby-Sawyer campus in the 1980s, used in an Annual Fund piece to show to classes from that decade how the college had changed. Contrast this view with the recent photo below.

When it closed the books last June, the 2006 Colby-Sawyer Annual Fund showed a record total of $1.3 million raised to support college programs. More than 3,300 alumni, parents, and friends contributed to the fund, which broke last year's record to total the highest level of annual giving in 14 years.

But statistics do not tell the real story, which does not live in numbers alone. The Annual Fund is really about everything the college does and is and all its relationships, both on and off campus.

“The Annual Fund is the college's highest fund-raising priority,” says Kathy Carroll, director of annual giving. “So of course we want to make the goal and better. As far as we can go back in our records, this is the highest result the college has attained. [It is] a tribute to our donors and each individual's thoughtful decision to positively impact scholarships, innovations to the curriculum, student life, athletics, and a range of extracurricular programming, faculty development and campus beautification.”

“Liberal education at Colby-Sawyer aims to prepare students to analyze, to respond and to participate in society,” adds Beth Cahill, vice president for advancement. “In choosing to support Colby-Sawyer, every individual donor models citizenship responsibility and each one partners with the faculty and staff on campus who share the goal of preparing today's students for fulfilling lives. Educating and guiding the next generation of parents, leaders, colleagues and citizens is most important work. The Annual Fund makes this possible.”

Galligan at Studio Potter Collection Opening  

Recent air view of the Colby-Sawyer campus, used in an Annual Fund piece to show to classes from the 1980s how the college had changed. Contrast this view with the 1980s view above.

Major Impacts on Campus

Because donations to the Annual Fund are “gifts for current purposes,” they have a broad impact across campus, helping wherever additional resources are needed. Donors are able to designate gifts to a wide range of purposes, from “Teaching and Learning,” scholarships, technology, student life, and athletics, to “Presidential Initiatives”---supporting immediate priorities designated by the president---and unrestricted funds, which go wherever the need is greatest.

The fund remains one of the college's most important financial resources. “Private college endowments are much smaller than most folks realize,” explains Treasurer Douglas Lyon. “There are about 1,600 private colleges and universities in the U.S. and only about 100 of those [6 percent] have endowments of $250 million or more. Only about 30 [2 percent] have endowments of $1 billion or more.

“The average endowment for the 1,570 private colleges without $1 billion endowments is only $12 million. Because of state regulations and institutional policies that govern endowment spending, an endowment of $12 million produces only about $600,000 in annual revenue.

“Now consider Colby-Sawyer, which has an endowment of $25 million. Our endowment produced about $1 million dollars in revenue for the 2005-2006 fiscal year. The Annual Fund produced $1.3 million during that same year.

“Thus, in terms of revenue generation, the Annual Fund was more important to Colby-Sawyer than the endowment. In addition, because the Annual Fund is largely unrestricted as to use, it provides the flexibility to utilize those funds for the college's most urgent needs.”

A Lasting Connection

Annual Fund gifts are also a way to stay connected with the college and to give back a little of what the college contributed to a life and career. As part of the 2006 Annual Fund, Associate Director of Annual Giving Chris Reed contacted many of the 5th reunion year donors personally to say thank you. One of the first contributed a gift of several hundred dollars. “It was his way to say to thank you for the phenomenal things the college did for him,” Reed recalls.

“He said 'Colby-Sawyer is a phenomenal institution. My interactions with the professors, staff and community opened up many job opportunities for me.' The networking really connected him to the outside world, before he even graduated. He loves the job he has and is very successful. He told me 'I have what I have because of what Colby-sawyer gave me.'”

That 5th reunion year class---the class of 2001---set some milestones of its own. Annual Giving and Alumni Relations made a special effort to reach out to young alumni before their first major reunion, as a way to reconnect them with the campus. With the help of Class Agent Tracey Guarda Perkins, who is currently on the Colby-Sawyer admissions staff, 5th reunion giving totaled $5,696, with class donor participation raised by 86 percent. At the other end of the reunion spectrum, the 50th reunion class of 1956 contributed a total of $300,000 – a tremendous effort spearheaded by long-time class agent Nancy Hoyt Langbein.

The Meaning of a Gift

Gifts to the Annual Fund from faculty and staff were also at an all-time high. For some, their gift was a reflection of a broader commitment to Colby-Sawyer and higher education.

“I think it's important for faculty members to contribute even a modest amount of money to this effort,” says Professor of Humanities Donald Coonley, “because it can reflect an additional, and quantifiable, kind of commitment to the enterprise. I've become convinced that potential donors outside the college community often respond positively when they learn that significant percentages of college employees have also added to the Annual Fund.”

“I give to Colby-Sawyer College because I believe that regardless of the size of a gift, every gift truly matters to the school," adds Tracey Perkins '01, senior associate director of admissions. “As a 'young alum' I know that resources are precious, but I do realize the value of my education at Colby-Sawyer and know that supporting the school helps to make each current student's experience as meaningful as my own.”

Building Friendships across Town and Gown

Friends of the college play an unusually important role in the Colby-Sawyer Annual Fund. “Historically, the town has been very generous to the college,” Carroll says. “A large percentage of the non-alumni financial contributions come from local friends. We are able to rally a lot of support there because people really appreciate the college in New London. There are people who support their own colleges, the colleges where their children went to school, and other connections, but still feel closer to Colby-Sawyer. “

One major focus of local giving is athletics, which brings together many parts of the college and town communities. Local people attend basketball games and other athletic events and support the Chargers Club, a group made of local alumni and residents, which acts as a booster club, hosting fund-raisers and donating funds for equipment and other needs.

Other residents give to different aspects of the college multiple times during the year and involve themselves in many campus activities, including taking courses through the Adventures in Learning program, making use of campus facilities or giving feedback to the president.

The close town-gown relationship rubs off on the students as well. “As first years, some of our students ask: what are we going to do in this town?” Reed says. “This spring I had a wonderful conversation with a graduating senior. He said 'Can you help me with some local job contacts? I love it around here.'”

“Friendship is at an all-time high,” Carroll says. “It's reflected in a keen interest in the college and enthusiasm for the work it does. [Former president] Anne Ponder was very open with the community and built a great relationship. [President] Tom [Galligan] is out running every day, chatting with anyone who comes along. It makes for a pretty refreshing, open place---up close and personal.”