Pomona’s Daring Minds Campaign Raises Record Funds

Pomona College’s five-year Daring Minds fundraising campaign concluded in December 2015 after collecting more than $316 million in gifts and donations—the most ever raised from a single donation campaign. According to Pomona's Vice President for Advancement Pam Besnard, the school prioritized allocating the campaign's funds to financial aid, summer internships, and student research.

Besnard, who worked closely with the campaign, explained that while the campaign exceeded expectations in many areas, it fell short in others. Funding for summer internships and financial aid had very successful results. However, most donations were from parents and families, rather than large gifts, resulting in many “spendable gifts” but not in a long-term, sustaining endowment, according to Besnard.

“We want to sustain that effort and without endowing that effort,” Besnard said. “This requires much larger sums of money to yield the income from the endowment that we need to support that program on an annual basis. We will continue to be raising money that goes in the door and goes out the door.”

“Another area is in financial aid. We had a goal of $65 million for financial aid, and the total dollars raised to date was about $46 million, so we were about 70% of that goal,” Besnard said. 

Besnard made sure to specify, however, that the campaign was by and large a huge success, raising money for projects including the Draper Center for Community Partnerships and the construction of the Studio Art Hall, which was completed in fall 2014.

Maria Tucker, director of the Draper Center, said that the Draper Center’s activities are “very attractive to potential donors.”

“The Daring Minds campaign allowed us to highlight the work of students,” said Tucker, who described the campaign as a “great opportunity for the Draper Center.”

In areas that could appreciate further funding, smaller fundraising efforts will continue. However, for the time being, Besnard and associates are recovering from campaign fatigue after a sustained, comprehensive campaign.

“I think it is hard to be in perpetual campaign mode. It puts strain on a lot of different resources. And there's a certain donor fatigue which also can set in with your own board of trustees and your volunteers closest to you,” Besnard said. “So you mobilize for a very ambitious effort, and to be in constant campaign mode is challenging.”

Besnard remarked, however, that the typical interval between comprehensive college fundraising campaigns has been shrinking of late. Typically, the interim period between campaigns is between five and eight years, but many colleges have recently been seeing campaigns every two or three years. For Pomona, Besnard said that another comprehensive campaign will probably be the business of the next president.

“It's not unusual for a campaign period to be central to a president's tenure,” said Besnard.

In the meantime, fundraisers will embark on smaller, more targeted fundraising efforts and specific projects.

“Perhaps in the interim there is a focus campaign on raising for a very specific project, which perhaps has very clear donor interest or clear targeted donor group for that project. So that could be a building, that could be a program,” Besnard said. “We will always be continuing to fundraise aggressively for financial aid, summer internships, for student research, and those types of areas because…it feels like we're never reaching a point where people say, 'No, we're fine, we don't need any more resources there.’” 

The conclusion of Daring Minds coincides with President David Oxtoby’s announcement that he will resign in June 2017, which both Besnard and Tucker regarded as par for the course.

“There's key aspects of a successful presidency. Typically those are a capital campaign, capital projects, so buildings, and you know, fulfilling goals that they set out to initially in their presidency, and he's really done a great job at all of that,” Tucker said of Oxtoby.

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