On Oct. 3, the SUNY New Paltz Foundation publicly announced the college’s first comprehensive campaign, Soaring Higher: The Campaign for SUNY New Paltz, at a kick-off event held in the multipurpose room of the Student Union Building. The campaign is looking to raise $23 million towards three major priorities.
“It’s the first campaign of its kind for us, and it’s really a way of us investing in students and supporting students,” said Michael Keegan, senior vice president at M&T Corporation and chair of the campaign cabinet.
The SUNY New Paltz Foundation, which was founded in 1976, is a “separate 501(c)3 that works to enrich the quality of academic life at SUNY New Paltz,” according to the campaign website. A 20-member Board of Directors governs the foundation, which is the initial recipient of all gifts donated to the college.
The development of Soaring Higher dates back to as far as 2011, when a feasibility study was conducted to test the college’s readiness to launch a campaign. Though the initial report found that the school was not yet ready for a campaign, improvements to donor cultivation and alumni relations had improved by 2013/2014, and by 2014/2015, the college was ready to launch what is known as a three-year major gift initiative.
The goal of the initiative was to double the previous year’s annual fundraising, which had been about $1.5 million. During the three-year major gift initiative, the average annual fundraising came to $3.14 million. Following this initiative was what was referred to as the “silent phase” of the campaign.
During the silent phase of the campaign, a significant base of support was developed. As a rule of thumb, campaigns generally remain in the silent phase until 80% of the final goal is raised. By the end of the last fiscal year (June 30), the campaign had raised $18.4 million, which is when the college decided it was a good time to go public with the campaign.
Based on the trajectory of the campaign, including the three-year major gift initiative, a goal of $23 million was decided on. This goal is broken up into three campaign priorities: $11.5 million towards scholarships and experiential learning, $8 million towards program support and $3.5 million towards the Fund for New Paltz, the general fund of SUNY New Paltz.
Since July 1, the campaign has raised about $750,000 this year alone, for a total of nearly $19.1 million. The campaign is expecting to hit the goal by the end of June 2021.
“It’s work,” said President Donald P. Christian. “It’s an aspirational goal, but it’s one that we think is reasonable for us to attain.”
At the kick-off event, faculty, alumni and students gathered to celebrate the campus community, bring awareness to the campaign and converse with each other.
“I think this was a good opportunity for students and faculty to speak to each other on a personal level without a power dynamic,” said Student Association Senator and third-year communication disorders major Tiana Concepcion.
Other guests included Christian, campaign cabinet members and numerous alumnus.
“This is about family and community,” said Erica Marks, vice president for Development and Alumni Relations. “Everything we’re doing is to support students, faculty, campus and community.”
Harry Bonsu, a campaign cabinet member and class of 1990 graduate of SUNY New Paltz, expressed his desire to get involved with the campaign due to the impact the college had on him.
“It’s such a worthwhile cause and opportunity to give back and continue a legacy for these students, that I just need to be apart of that,” Bonsu said.
One week after its launch, the college remains hopeful that the campaign will be a success. President Christian recalls a symbolic encounter with a bald eagle “soaring” outside of his office as an indication of this.
“I took that as a good omen for our campaign,” Christian said.