$28M and Counting
by Tom Hanlon / Oct 6, 2021
*Graphic represents fundraising progress as of December 1, 2021.
The five-year “With Illinois” fundraising campaign has exceeded its goals both for the University of Illinois and for the College of Education. This highly successful campaign will help the College redefine the way higher education can change Illinois and the world for better as it shapes the next generation of education leaders.
The College of Education’s goal for the five-year “With Illinois” fundraising campaign, which ends in June 2022, was $25M.
The College surpassed that goal with 17 months to go, and to-date has received more than $30.3 million.
But the fundraising efforts aren’t slowing down, because the needs aren’t going away.
“While we are proud to reach this critically important milestone, our fundraising efforts will not stop,” says Lisa Denson, assistant dean for advancement. “We remain resolute in our commitment to secure private resources from now to the conclusion of the campaign timeline.”
The funds are targeted for three primary areas: student scholarships and fellowships, faculty research, and technology and facility enhancement.
That first focus—students—is the area of greatest need.
“Education is more expensive than ever, especially for families of limited resources or first-generation students,” Denson acknowledges. “We need to make education more affordable for our next generation of education leaders. Dean Anderson places a high priority on making Illinois accessible to those students who want to make Illinois their first destination school.”
Denson says funds for scholarships and fellowships are particularly critical now because of the teacher shortage in Illinois and the changing demographic of our society. “We’re working on bringing in under-represented students who are going into teaching. Making an education affordable for our next generation of educational leaders and classroom teachers is so important. They won’t necessarily make a large salary like accountants, engineers, or lawyers. They are choosing to give to the public good and educate society.”
Denson is pleased with the amount of funds that have poured into the College. “Our donors are very passionate about education and the next generation of educators. They want the next generation to be able to afford the same great Illinois education that benefitted them.”
Alumni and friends of the College remain steadfast supporters, she says. “We also are fortunate to have an extremely productive faculty that is continually recognized for their great work. They receive several grants and awards throughout the year to support the work within the College.”
The College, Denson adds, believes in “donor-centered fundraising—meaning we will work with a donor to find a program that they believe in and want to make a significant impact on students, faculty research, and the University. Our approach over the years has not changed significantly.”
COVID-19 Has Changed Fundraising
The only change, Denson notes, was necessitated by COVID-19. “Our outreach to donors looks much different today,” she says. Travel and face-to-face time have been largely replaced by Zoom meetings, which has its pluses and minuses.
“It’s expanded our reach,” Denson says. “For example, at our Student Recognition Brunch, normally held at the I Hotel, we typically get people from the Chicagoland area, from central Illinois, and maybe from a few bordering states. But last year, we held a virtual event, and we had people joining us from across the country.
“So, while it’s taken away that one-on-one personal time that we really enjoy as fundraisers, it has really broadened our ability to reach out to our alumni across the whole country to make events available.”
COVID-19, Denson adds, has changed the landscape of fundraising. “We’ll never go back to just face to face. All of our events will always have our virtual component and we’ll continue to work with donors meeting in person and over Zoom. It’s become another tool in our toolbox.”
Investing in the Next Generation
During the “With Illinois” campaign, the College of Education has received gifts of all sizes, from $25 to $100,000-plus. The College has also received nearly $1M in Spencer Foundation grants in the past year. “There’s no donation that’s too small!” Denson says. “If you believe in our mission, no gift is too small to help someone or something in the building.
“The funding that we secure today will pay dividends into perpetuity for our College. I can think of no greater cause for our society than to invest in the next generation of teachers if you want to change the world.”