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Count Me In Campaign a Huge Success

On behalf of VMI, the Corps of Cadets and future cadets:

Thank you to all VMI alumni, family and friends who took the time to make a gift to the Institute during the monthlong Count Me In campaign. Your generosity is truly appreciated. You pulled together during a difficult time and, together, gave roughly $500,000 to VMI.

Always loyal, the VMI family showed overwhelming support to the Institute between May 17-June 16, 2020. Count Me In’s goal was threefold, said Meade King ’85, chief operating officer of the Foundation and Keydet Club.

First, to honor the Class of 2020 with 331 donors – to match the number of May 2020 graduates. Second, to increase alumni giving participation numbers. And third, to bring always-needed financial support to VMI. This support was even more vital in 2020, due to economic effects triggered by the coronavirus pandemic.

While news outlets were blaring headlines about COVID-19 and ensuing problems, VMI alumni quietly stepped forward and offered tangible support to the Institute. The 331-donor goal was exceeded early on and eventually climbed to over 900 donors. Together, gifts added up to roughly $500,000.

“I am especially grateful to all those who joined the efforts, not simply for the donation of necessary monies, but for their understanding that this important work on behalf of VMI must continue,” said King.

Each class had individualized donor goals. Some classes used the opportunity for reunion giving – both to raise funds and to raise awareness of how valuable private support is in supporting VMI.

The uber-competitive Class of 1990 once again beat out all comers. They nabbed first place in donor totals, with 120 class members participating. They’re also the undisputed number-of-donor champions during VMI’s two Days of Giving.

This time, however, the Class of 1988 gave 1990 a run for their money, with 90 donors. For 1988, it went beyond competition. It was about remembering a friend and brother rat who they lost to COVID-19. Newark, New Jersey, Police Lt. Michael Clegg ’88 died April 10, 2020. One of his brother rats wanted to start a scholarship in Clegg’s honor and contributed several thousand dollars to begin a scholarship. Over 80 members of the class quickly jumped on board. Working together, they funded the Michael W. Clegg ’88 Memorial Scholarship in under 24 hours.

“The heartfelt and successful memorial to Michael Clegg ’88 is arguably the finest result about which we can boast,” said King.

In third place, the Class of 1996 narrowly edged out the Class of 1997 by six, with 69 donors. With that effort, the Class of 1996 raised their participation rate by 13%. Financially, the Class of 1965 was first, while 1988 and 1990 were second and third, respectively.

Many alumni offered both matching and challenge gifts during the one-month campaign. “Challenge gifts” are exactly that: A challenge. For instance, an anonymous donor challenged the VMI family to participate – by offering to give $100,000 if 331 people made donations. This challenge was successfully met by the VMI family June 8. As the campaign continued and the initial donor goal was met, this anonymous investor upped the ante with more challenges and matches, eventually giving $250,000.

“Thanks to this anonymous donor, we far outpaced our donor goal and met our financial commitment to provide VMI much-needed unrestricted money,” said King.

Matching gifts are a little different. These happen when one person offers to give the same amount as others, usually up to a certain dollar amount. Many successful matches – small and large – happened during Count Me In. Several instances of, “I’ll put in $10 if my roommate does,” and, “Anytime I can get so-and-so to give up some money, I’ll do it,” occurred throughout the campaign, noted King. Alumni, especially brother rats, motivated each other to support VMI in any amount.

“As crowdfunding efforts go, many individuals added their enthusiasm in the form of personal challenges,” said King. “From small to large, each incentive brought a measure of momentum and helped ensure our successful outcome.”

Count Me In was primarily an online fundraising effort and the VMI family was able to track progress via the internet. Social media and email updates also kept alumni and friends informed during the entirety of the campaign.

The funds raised will support the Corps of Cadets and VMI in diverse areas. About 25% of VMI’s annual budget is provided through private support, including scholarships, faculty salaries, cadet and faculty conference attendance, equipment, Corps life and undergraduate research.

“In spite of the pandemic the alumni community – in an impressive display – rallied with brother rats to celebrate the graduating class and provide much-needed support to the Institute,” said Patti Cook, director of Annual and Reunion Giving. “This makes for a positive ending to what would have been a very uncertain year.”

  • Molly Rolon

    Molly Rolon Editorial Specialist