Alumni Review

Every Gift Matters: Donors Make a Difference with Unrestricted Gifts

Will Collier and Family

Will Collier ’06, who supported Annual Giving through the Foundation Fund in FY 17-18, and his family attended the Alumni Association pregame event in Toledo, Ohio, in September 2018. Photo by Micalyn Miller, VMI Alumni Agencies.

The beginning of Fiscal Year 2018 brought forth some concerns about the VMI family’s capacity to support the Institute. While the need remained for funds with which VMI can meet pressing priorities and take every opportunity to improve the education of cadets, the Institute had just completed an exceptionally successful fundraising campaign. “We were,” recalled Warren J. Bryan ’71, VMI Foundation chief operating officer, “very much concerned with the prospect of donor fatigue. Would the VMI family heed the call to support critical programs by giving unrestricted funds through Annual Giving?”

At the end of Fiscal Year 2018, the answer was clear: They would – and did – in a big way. Gifts to Annual Giving topped the previous year’s numbers with strong support to the Foundation Fund and funds managed by the VMI Keydet Club, enabling VMI to celebrate an increase in such support at a time when many schools across the nation have experienced significant declines in annual giving.

Will Collier ’06 was one of the donors who participated in Annual Giving in FY 2018. He described why he and his wife, Karen, supported VMI. “There are many reasons why my wife and I choose to continue to support VMI through the Foundation Fund. First, the VMI ring is something that all alumni wear proudly. Thanks to the generosity of donors, the VMI Foundation helps offset some of the costs of class rings, helping to ensure that every cadet has a class ring. When I learned of this as a cadet, it made a real impression on me. It underscored not only the feeling of camaraderie within the ranks of alumni that the ring symbolizes, but also how the Foundation helps cadets throughout their time in barracks. Furthermore, we strongly support VMI’s mission to produce educated citizen-soldiers. The complete education gained at VMI gives graduates the tools necessary to be successful in all walks of life. We know the VMI experience requires the support of the alumni, family and friends of VMI if it is to continue to do so. Karen and I feel that giving to the Foundation Fund is the best way to support areas critical to VMI’s overall success, because we’re sure that it will go to the right departments, projects and activities.”

All told, the Colliers and thousands of alumni and friends made more than $6.2 million in gifts to Annual Giving, which included $2.89 million to the Foundation Fund. The importance of support of the Foundation Fund was explained by Steve Maconi, VMI Alumni Agencies chief executive officer. “Every leader in every organization needs the ability to react quickly to challenges and respond strongly to opportunities as they present themselves. At VMI, unrestricted money from the VMI family empowers the superintendent and other leaders to make strategically important decisions in a timely manner.”

Gifts to the Foundation Fund have, in the past, supported the academic program, helped meet cadet scholarship needs, made innovative development opportunities available to cadets and faculty, and supported the Institute’s distinctive military system which inculcates the habits of sound leadership in all cadets. “Simply stated,” said Maconi, “every aspect of the VMI experience has been improved thanks to this form of unrestricted giving.”

The impact of giving to the Keydet Club is no less wide-reaching and profound. Greg Sanders ’18, a cadet-athlete with a 3.9 GPA at graduation, expressed his thanks to the Class of 1969 for supporting him throughout his cadetship through its scholarship. “I can never thank the Class of 1969 enough for their support. They believed in me, and I knew every day that I had a class of VMI alumni helping to prepare me for my future. I was able to hit the ground running, without my parents, who are both in the military, being saddled with thousands of dollars of debt.”

In FY 2018, hundreds of alumni and friends directed more than $3.23 million to the Keydet Club Scholarship Fund and Athletic Operations Funds and Team-Specific Scholarship Funds. “This money was put to work immediately by Dave Diles, VMI director of intercollegiate athletics, and the dedicated men and women who coach our cadet-athletes,” said Meade B. King ’85, VMI Keydet Club chief operating officer. “They use it to attract, retain and support those hundreds of special young men and women, like Sanders, who are willing to take on the challenges of being an intercollegiate athlete at VMI because they are aware of how the experience will develop them as leaders and otherwise prepare them for life.”

The success of Annual Giving in FY 2018 came about in no small part because of the energetic work of the staff of the VMI Alumni Agencies. However, a large share of credit also can go to those alumni who make the case for Annual Giving. “For five years, I have witnessed firsthand the enthusiasm that alumni have for the Institute,” explained John J. Wranek III ’85, former VMI Alumni Association director of reunions. “These alumni, who include our dedicated class agents, have returned to post, where they have seen the transformational power of VMI at work in current cadets, and they know that these young men and women will have a positive impact our nation. They leave post and return home determined to carry a message about the importance of private support to their brother rats and other alumni.”

“Participation in Annual Giving matters because every gift matters,” said Maconi. “To ensure VMI’s academic and co-curricular programs are of the highest quality, the Institute will always need unrestricted money that can be used where it is most needed. The money directed to the support of VMI’s athletic program and cadet-athletes will accelerate the progress of all of our teams as well as bring us closer to the goal of allowing VMI to take full advantage of its scholarship allowances from the NCAA. That is why the VMI Alumni Agencies and current and future cadets, faculty and staff are deeply grateful for the alumni, parents, faculty, staff and friends who participate in this vital effort. Finally, by making unrestricted gifts through Annual Giving, these alumni and friends are expressing their common approval of the Institute’s current direction and their shared trust in the judgment of the superintendent and the rest of the Institute’s leadership. It is an important and inspiring message for all of us on post.”

  • Scott Belliveau

    Scott Belliveau '83 Communications Officer - Executive Projects

    The communications officer supports the strategy for all communications, including web content, public relations messages and collateral pieces in order to articulate and promote the mission of the VMI Alumni Agencies and promote philanthropy among varied constituencies.

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