By University Advancement Staff

William & Mary completed its boldest fundraising campaign yet, with $1.04 billion raised, ties among alumni and alma mater strengthened and its status as the No. 1 public university for alumni participation cemented several years in a row. For nearly a decade, the For the Bold campaign infused revolutionary ideas and bold initiatives into our 327-year-old institution of higher learning. The campaign led to wide-ranging transformations across the university and new opportunities and experiences for generations of students, faculty, alumni and staff. 

Since For the Bold’s inception nearly a decade ago, gifts from donors have funded more than $303 million in scholarships for students. Scholarships topped the list of priorities, with more than a third of all scholarships at the university created during the campaign — which has been particularly important as millions of families in the U.S. face financial hardships during COVID-19. The Scholarships Impact Fund, which provides immediate support for students, also saw a four-fold increase in annual donors since the beginning of the campaign.

For the Bold has been a campaign about people and it will continue to shape the stories and change the lives of so many at William & Mary for the better,” says former Campaign Chair Sue Hanna Gerdelman ’76, P ’07, P ’13. “Through times of triumph and tribulations, the campaign has provided a stream of resources that have enabled the great minds who come to William & Mary to innovate, seize new opportunities and pursue their passions.”

“Our generous donors to the For the Bold campaign have invested in efforts that push us beyond the status quo and into bold new ventures to increase equity, inclusion, grit and creativity.”
–Katherine A. Rowe | President, William & Mary

Gerdelman adds, “Our For the Bold campaign has been a constant during so much uncertainty, often being the impetus to greater community action to advance what we value most.”

Transformational Initiatives

Campaign gifts fueled professorships and fellowships for graduate students researching pressing global issues, including marine plastics pollution and international foreign aid spending, and enabled the university to purchase state-of-the-art science equipment. The generosity of donors led to the establishment of new spaces and initiatives designed to help students flourish, including the McLeod Tyler Wellness Center, the Shenkman Jewish Center, the Institute for Integrative Conservation (IIC), Camp Launch, the Flanagan Counselor Education Clinic and the Center for Online Learning, just to name a few.

The campaign also brought to life the cutting-edge W&M VET program for student-veterans, the Entrepreneurship Hub, the Hixon Center for Experiential Learning and Leadership, the Boehly Center for Excellence in Finance, the Alumni House expansion and The Martha Wren Briggs Center for the Visual Arts, which will include the expanded Muscarelle Museum of Art.

It is also fueling the Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation, advancing music and arts programs, expanding international initiatives and revitalizing the W&M Athletics Complex, as well as providing financial support for internships for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Photo Credit: Stephen Salpukas

Importantly, the campaign provided robust funding to advance diversity and inclusion initiatives at William & Mary. Gifts supported the Center for Student Diversity, curriculum and faculty support, the Memorial to the Enslaved and the Lemon Project, which promotes greater understanding of the African American experience at William & Mary, among other efforts. In addition, new programs — such as the IIC and the Women’s Stock Pitch — bolster opportunities for women, people of color and indigenous populations to engage more fully in W&M’s educational experience.

This captures only a sliver of the impact of For the Bold.

Overcoming Challenges During Unprecedented Times

Many in our community have asked how the campaign — now and in the years ahead — will help our students to thrive and the university as a whole to overcome the challenges facing our world. They have asked how For the Bold will advance William & Mary’s mission to convene great minds and hearts to meet the most pressing needs of our time. All of the examples mentioned and more answer these questions, Gerdelman says.

“The compassion, kindness and shared sense of purpose in our community are vividly clear at this moment. We are seeing a new level of generosity at William & Mary, a clear focus on how to sustain resilience, and we are so grateful to everyone who is part of that groundswell,” says President Katherine A. Rowe.

Rowe adds, “Our generous donors to the For the Bold campaign have invested in efforts that push us beyond the status quo and into bold new ventures to increase equity, inclusion, grit and creativity.”

Indeed, William & Mary reimagined One Tribe One Day (OTOD) last June — the university’s giving day that celebrates engagement and philanthropy — as a day to focus on community and invest in positive change. In doing so, 7,136 donors contributed a collective $2.5 million. This was the highest dollar total raised with the largest average gift size in the annual event’s seven-year history. To date, donors gave more than 64,000 gifts on OTOD, helping the university raise a total of $13.3 million.

Last spring the university pivoted and focused the campaign almost exclusively on ways to help students, faculty and staff — and William & Mary as a whole — combat challenges posed by COVID-19. For example, emergency funds established by donors were tapped to help international students facing financial difficulties and private resources supported the newly established Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation — enabling the university to go completely virtual in the spring and then embark on hybrid instruction in the fall semester.

Photo Credit: Alfred Herczeg

“We talk a lot about this campaign being an investment in people, and what we’ve been able to do is invest in people who are tackling some of the greatest challenges we will ever face in our lifetime. We’ve invested in people who are taking risks during a time of incredible change and transformation and in people who have the passion and courage to lead during moments of great difficulty and uncertainty,” says Matthew T. Lambert ’99, vice president for university advancement.

“What we’ve seen is something bigger and bolder than we ever imagined — our For the Bold campaign will always be remembered as one of our most ambitious undertakings because it pushed William & Mary to expand our focus beyond Virginia to complex issues in our rapidly evolving world. This campaign has also brought our entire community together to build a durable culture of engagement and philanthropy,” Lambert says.

Communitywide Support and Engagement

A total of 106,644 donors contributed to For the Bold since its inception, collectively raising $1.04 billion. More than 43,000 alumni, 15,062 students, 1,086 faculty and staff, 19,068 parents, 30,866 friends, and 2,318 organizations, corporations and foundations supported the campaign. Since the start of the campaign, gifts of less than $100 have totaled approximately $14.7 million, reinforcing the fact that gifts of all sizes make a big difference. The campaign was only the fourth comprehensive fundraising effort in the university’s modern history.

Through For the Bold, William & Mary’s partnerships with private, nonprofit and public sectors grew and strengthened, a key factor to advancing innovative solutions to some of the world’s greatest threats. The collaborations were integral components of the gift to establish the IIC, as well as initiatives at the Global Research Institute, William & Mary Law School’s Lewis B. Puller Veterans Benefits Clinic and W&M’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science. They will continue to be an area the university aims to grow in the years ahead.

As we look to the future of knowledge and work, it is increasingly important to create opportunities for students to interact with organizations and businesses known for innovation and entrepreneurial thinking. Partnerships with industries and corporations will invigorate our educational core and prepare our graduates to thrive professionally in a rapidly changing world.

During the campaign, William & Mary had one of the highest donor retention rates in the U.S., with a large percentage of its undergraduate alumni renewing their investment in alma mater year after year. During the first year of the campaign, the university had a 23.6% alumni participation rate. Today, according to U.S. News & World Report, it is 30%, which places William & Mary first among all public universities in the U.S. and 17th among all privates. This can be attributed in many ways to several new and innovative programs and initiatives that were created over the course of the campaign, including OTOD, the Class Ambassadors Program, Tag Day and Impact Week.

Photo Credit: Skip Rowland ’83

Strengthening alumni engagement was also a key priority of the campaign. The W&M Alumni Association created W&M Weekend — which provides a variety of professional, cultural, social and intellectual opportunities for alumni — Professionals Week, W&M Women’s Weekend, the Society of 1918, a reimagined Homecoming & Reunion Weekend, Traditions Weekend — which brings together the 50th Reunion Class, Olde Guarde and Robert Boyle Legacy Society — new virtual programming featuring alumni experts in their fields, and so much more. Additional resources like the W&M Switchboard, an exclusive online platform for alumni to share job opportunities, seek advice and connect with others in their field or city, helped alumni worldwide stay connected with each other and alma mater.

These new and creative offerings are considered by many to be a reason why the university saw alumni participating in expanded activities triple since the start of the campaign — including in new career and networking opportunities, which increased 2,300%.

Additionally, William & Mary expanded its alumni engagement staff to support underrepresented communities. In November 2019 and March 2020, more than 75 alumni representing Black/African American, Latino/a and LGBT+ communities met in person on campus for two retreat-style gatherings. The outcomes included establishing five goals for each community that are focused on growing the engagement, leadership and philanthropy of these underrepresented alumni communities. Each of the identity groups will continue to connect regularly.

Shortly after its public launch in the Sunken Garden in fall 2015, For the Bold went on the road. From Washington, D.C., to New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Richmond, Chicago, Hampton Roads and London, and many more locations, alumni, parents and friends attended the campaign celebrations to support William & Mary and its vision for the future.

At the events, students spoke about the power of scholarships, professors highlighted their research and cutting-edge programs, and donors reinforced the importance of giving back to the university that supported their success both personally and professionally. A new lighting tradition was also created — several major U.S. landmarks were illuminated in green and gold in honor of the campaign, including the iconic Empire State Building.

Photo Credit: Eric Lusher

“William & Mary has achieved what no other public university of our size has been able to achieve, strengthening in yet another way the university’s historic preeminence,” says W&M President Emeritus W. Taylor Reveley, III LL.D. ’18, HON ’18. The campaign was imagined, launched and raised $800 million during Reveley’s presidency. During his tenure,
private support for William & Mary surpassed public support from the commonwealth, creating a gap between private and public resources that has continued to grow.

“We were doggedly ambitious for the Alma Mater of the Nation. The campaign reached glorious new heights. William & Mary is and always will be a university for the bold,” Reveley adds.

While For the Bold has concluded, William & Mary continues to strengthen its culture of engagement and philanthropy. In the current financial landscape, private support is essential for the university to advance its margin of excellence and to provide robust scholarship support for exceptional William & Mary students.