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UGA completes historic fundraising campaign

The University of Georgia’s Commit to Georgia Campaign ended June 30 after raising $1.45 billion, becoming the university’s most successful fundraising effort in its history.

The campaign publicly launched in November 2016 with a $1.2 billion goal—a mark it surpassed 16 months ahead of schedule—and garnered donations from 175,488 donors, who hailed from all 50 states and 62 countries.

“On behalf of the University of Georgia, I want to thank each and every person who supported this campaign,” said President Jere W. Morehead. “Their gifts have allowed our great institution to expand its positive impact across Georgia and around the world, and future generations of students will have transformational experiences at UGA because of their generosity and loyalty. This campaign demonstrated that, with the support of alumni and friends, no goal or aspiration is out of reach for the University of Georgia. Working together, we can—and will continue—to improve lives and communities through our important missions of teaching, research, and service.”

The historic campaign was powered by gifts of all sizes, from the largest single gift ever given to UGA—$30 million from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation in 2016—to 354,504 gifts of $100 or less. Giving to UGA set new records year over year for the bulk of the campaign: UGA’s three-year rolling average—which averages fundraising totals for each year and the two years prior—stood at an all-time high $151.5 million in FY16 and by FY19 had grown even higher to $231.3 million.

Economic uncertainty brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a dip in giving this fiscal year, but even amid a public health crisis, donations rolled in for student emergency funds, COVID-19 research and other areas to support UGA’s mission during the pandemic.  In fact, more than $7 million was raised through nearly 11,000 gifts between April and May alone.

“The final months of this campaign were frightening and challenging, without question, but they showed the power of what our donors have done,” said Kelly Kerner, vice president for development and alumni relations and executive director of the UGA Foundation. “After years of seeing their donations put to work to help students and strengthen the university, our alumni and friends experienced this crisis and asked us, ‘what can I do?’ I’m in awe of their dedication, and I’m endlessly grateful for what they’ve done to create a university that’s ready to take on future challenges.”

The campaign launched with three priorities— increasing scholarship support, enhancing the learning environment and solving grand challenges through research and service—and saw considerable growth in each area.

“Donors are so selfless to help people they don’t know fulfill their education,” said MiMi Tran, a Georgia Commitment Scholarship recipient from Atlanta majoring in exercise and sport science. “That really changes lives, and I’m forever thankful for it.”

UGA donors funded more than 3,600 new scholarship awards during the campaign, including 528 endowed, need-based scholarships through the Georgia Commitment Scholarship program. Thanks to that program’s matching component and the more than 340 donors who supported it, over $80 million has been committed to need-based aid since the program’s January 2017 launch.

Campaign giving helped to build Delta Hall in Washington, D.C.; the Veterinary Medicine Teaching Hospital; the Business Learning Community; the William Porter Payne and Porter Otis Payne Indoor Athletic Facility; the Alice H. Richards Children’s Garden at the State Botanical Garden of Georgia; and a variety of other projects, resulting in over 900,000 square feet of new learning and activity space.

Many of UGA’s world-class educators and researchers are supported by endowed faculty positions, important tools in the recruitment and retention of talented faculty members. Private support created 94 endowed faculty positions since the campaign began, increasing the total number of endowed positions at UGA by 42 percent.

For a more detailed look at the Commit to Georgia Campaign, the students it helped, the experiences it created, and the donors responsible, visit give.uga.edu.