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UPDATED: "Reaching New Heights" Week-Long Fundraising Campaign

Updated: Mar 1, 2023

The fundraising campaign "Reaching New Heights" concluded last week and raised over $490K from 1,444 donations for the University to fund various scholarships and initiatives. Today (March 1), the site is still active and boasts nearly $510K raised from 1,494 donations. For comparison purposes, the 2022 giving day raised over $1M from 3,334 donors and the 2021 giving day raised over $883K from 5,258 donors. The 2019 giving day was the best yet according to a page in the Madison Magazine indicating over $1.2 million was raised that year. In 2017, giving day yielded over $610K from 4,349 donors. Perhaps the most significant comparison is the 2016 inaugural giving day, in which the university raised nearly $339K from 2,840 donors. Since the first giving day event in 2017, the proceeds from this yearly event steadily increased, so it is particularly concerning that the 2023 weeklong event raised almost as much as the initial giving day in 2016 and with fewer donors. While the University has touted the event as a success, the numbers speak for themselves. Why was there such a significant drop in funds raised and donors? Surely, the Advancement team is doing a debrief asking that question. Perhaps, a cause could be the orientation training that called white males (a large portion of the alumni base) "oppressors," or the recent mishandling of a Holocaust event on campus, or the apparent rift between the Chief Academic Officer (Provost) and the Faculty Senate. One additional reason could be the botched campus re-opening in 2020, in which JMU was the only institution that brought students back and had to abruptly close campus again. Student opinion indicated strong dissatisfaction with the University's handling of all aspects the pandemic. Regarding transparency, the Richmond Times also noted that the University failed to share the over 650 written comments to the BOV prior to a September 2020 meeting.


There are certainly a number of additional potential causations that could have resulted in alumni and others not contributing for the week long campaign.


Regardless of the cause, hopefully the members of the BOV's Advancement and Engagement Committee will ask some tough questions.


Advancement and Engagement Committee:

Craig Welburn, Chair

Terrie Edwards

Maria Jankowski

John Rothenberger

Michael Stoltzfus


For additional perspective here are the totals for other giving day events at public institutions across the Commonwealth. Many have not held their 2023 giving day yet, so 2022 figures are posted.


Institution

Amount Raised

Donors / Gifts

Virginia Tech - 2023

$9,626,827

16,841

UVA - 2022

$4,450,000

7,247

William and Mary - 2022

$3,800,000

9,550

VCU - 2022 (inaugural)

$2,562,085

4,840

ODU - 2022

$116,371

1,183

GMU- 2021

$544,000

2,300

VMI - 2022

$435,453

931

JMU Specific Table:

Year

Amount

Donors

2016

$339,000

2,840

2017

$610,000

4,349

2018

$650,000

5,000

2019

$1,200,000

5,329

2020 - Cancelled

n/a

n/a

2021

$883,000

5,258

2022

​1,035,165

3,334

2023

$510,000

1,494



Currently, JMU is in the midst of a new week-long fundraising campaign to raise additional funds across the University to "celebrate the rise in national prominence of the institution." This is in lieu of the usual "Giving Day" event, which last year raised just over a million dollars. In preparation or anticipation of this week's events, the University blasted out on all forms of social media various pictures and media for the event. One has to wonder, what is the net for the University after accounting for all of the promotional costs for these types of events? The videography of the video was good, but more complex than I suspect JMU University Communications / Media could handle and they clearly had a second plane in the air to capture the video of "Miss Virginia" flying over campus. Who paid for that and how much was it? These should be questions the JMU community is asking in the face of rising costs at institutions of higher education across the Commonwealth. Interestingly, the video clearly features Michael Stolzfus, President and CEO of Dynamic Aviation, but makes no mention of his membership on the JMU Board of Visitors. Did Stolzfus permit the University to use the plane for free?


The Madison Cabinet plans to post a more detailed analysis of the cost drivers at public institutions of higher education in the Commonwealth, and particularly, JMU in the near future. This State Council of Higher Education for Virginia Tuition and Fee Report is worth reading to anyone concerned about the increasing cost of public higher education.


As alumni of JMU, the membership of the Madison Cabinet believes in the University and wants the best for the students, faculty, and staff. However, as JMU continues to "reach new heights," the leadership must be reminded that they can do more to be open and transparent with the largest constituencies at the University: students and parents. Perhaps, the University should consider dedicating additional resources to Board of Visitors transparency by establishing publicly accessible emails for all of the board members and not just the Rector?


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