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Making a Profound Difference: Alumni and Friends in FY 2021

Meade King '85

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To say that fiscal year 2021—that period from July 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021—was a time of many challenges for VMI would be an immense understatement. It started in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and other tumultuous events. Although the Corps of Cadets was able to return for the fall semester, things were not normal. Access to post was severely restricted, and athletic events, parades, and reunions continued to be postponed. The Corps went home early during the fall semester and completed its classes online. These challenges and uncertainties were exacerbated by the unanticipated resignation of the superintendent, an internal audit, and an outside investigation. The VMI Alumni Agencies’ on- and off-post activities were curtailed, as well. There were no in-person chapter events for many months, the annual class agent meeting was canceled, and spring reunions were postponed. The call center, through which cadets engage with thousands of alumni each year, was closed. While the second half of the year had many bright spots—the installation of a new superintendent, a full semester of in-person learning, most traditional Finals Week events, and several notable athletic successes—the air of uncertainty left by the challenges VMI encountered earlier in the year never lifted completely.

What effects this would have on fundraising in FY 2021 were completely unknown. Subsequently, fewer alumni, parents, and friends came forward in support of VMI and its time-tested form of education. The number of donors declined overall, and alumni participation dropped from 28% in FY 2020 to 22% in FY 2021. Despite the decrease in donors, however, the VMI Foundation and the VMI Keydet Club combined to issue receipts totaling a respectable $27 million.

Yet, again, there were many bright spots. Thanks to this giving, the VMI Alumni Agencies met all its obligations to the Institute. Also, the Foundation Fund and the Keydet Club Scholarship Fund, the components of VMI Annual Giving and two of the Institute’s highest priorities for philanthropic support, received $6.7 million. It is worth noting that both funds enjoyed their second-highest years ever. Embracing the idea of leadership in support of VMI were 277 donors who gave at levels that qualified them for places in the Institute Society and the leadership of the VMI Keydet Club.

As fortunate as VMI is to have so many leadership donors, it is equally fortunate to have many more who give relatively smaller gifts. In fact, 2,200 of the 3,900 FY 2021 donors gave less than $500. That money’s importance cannot be underestimated because every dollar given to VMI matters. For many years—and FY 2021 was no exception—private money has constituted roughly one-quarter of the Institute’s annual operating budget. Even more important are this money’s positive effects. Wherever you see a cadet—in the classroom, on an athletic field, on parade, in barracks, on the obstacle course—you see private money at work because the Institute uses it to achieve and sustain excellence in every aspect of the remarkable experience that is a VMI education. Therefore, all donors—no matter the size of their gifts—are important to VMI because every donor supports cadets.

If you don’t think that’s important, please consider this: Replacing the $6.7 million given in FY 2021 to Annual Giving—to which most smaller gifts are directed—would require an endowment of more than $150 million. That demonstrates the power of the small gift and the importance of the alumni and friends who make them.

The VMI Foundation and VMI Keydet Club thank the 3,200 members of the VMI family who participated in the effort to raise private financial support for the nation’s finest college and finest students. These alumni and friends made a profound difference in the future of VMI and the lives of cadets for generations to come.

  • 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.

    Christian Heilman

    Christian Heilman Digital Content Manager

    The digital content manager is responsible for creating original video and multimedia materials, as well as developing and editing web and digital content. The manager is responsible for platform coordination and troubleshooting, to include the VMI Alumni Agencies’ primary websites, digital newsletter and other digital platforms.