More than 101M reasons to Fire Up!

| Author: Ari Harris

Central Michigan University leaders today announced the university has exceeded its goal of raising $100 million through its Fire Up for Excellence campaign, the largest and most successful fundraising effort in CMU history.

At today's Board of Trustees meeting, Bob Martin, vice president for advancement, and Fire Up for Excellence chair Mike O'Donnell announced the big news: The campaign has raised nearly $102 million, exceeding the goal more than three years ahead of schedule.

"We were convinced we would be successful from the very beginning. We have 225,000 alumni living and working around the world, many of whom had never been asked to give before. Our university has a great story of impact and success, and we just needed to invite alumni to be part of that success," O'Donnell said.

"We knew in our hearts that if we reached out to our friends and asked them for their support, they would respond. And they did," he said.

Emphasis on student success

Fire Up for Excellence's primary focus is student success, which resonates strongly with donors and alumni from around the state and around the world, Martin said. Every gift will be used to support current and future CMU students, including with 82 new scholarships.

Students also will benefit from contributions to various academic program areas and colleges, and athletics. Key gifts supported initiatives such as:

Building a new culture of philanthropy

CMU President Bob Davies said the campaign created a new culture of philanthropy at Central Michigan University, one that parallels the institution's famous school spirit.

"When Central Michigan began this campaign, consultants said the goal was too high — that we couldn't raise $100 million. But what our supporters heard was 'Fire Up Chips!'" Davies said.

"Now we have surpassed our goal, not three months or one year ahead of schedule, but three years ahead of schedule. This is what makes Central Michigan University special. When we are presented with challenges, we rise to meet them, together. The incredible success of this campaign is a testament to the passion of CMU Chippewas everywhere," he said. "This shows their commitment to their alma mater and to generations of students to come."

Numbers that count

$101.6 million: dollars raised | 59,756: donors participating
27,521: first-time donors | 82: new scholarships
23: gifts of $1 million or more

A little help from our friends

O'Donnell said some of the campaign's early momentum came from the late Dick Enberg, legendary sportscaster and longtime CMU alumni volunteer. Enberg served as honorary chair of the national campaign steering committee, making his own gift and personally encouraging others to give back. He appeared in the Fire Up for Excellence campaign videos, inspiring alumni around the world to contribute.

"Dick often spoke about CMU giving him his big break and how his experiences here propelled him to become an award-winning sportscaster. I think his story resonated for many of our alumni. They, too, feel the profound impact CMU has had on their lives and their careers. Dick inspired them to join him in celebrating that impact," O'Donnell said.

Major gifts early in the campaign from prominent alumni like Enberg and from CMU's corporate partners paved the way for others to get involved, Martin said.

Some campaign highlights included:

  • A $1 million gift from Sarah and Daniel Opperman led to expanded programming for the Leadership Institute and enhancements to Park Library.
  • Scott Pranger pledged $2 million to establish scholarships in the College of Business Administration.
  • Corporate partner Isabella Bank made campaign gifts of more than $2.5 million to fund scholarships, building improvements and the construction of the new Chippewa Champions Alumni Center.
  • Former CMU President George E. Ross and his wife, Elizabeth, made a gift of $1 million to support scholarships for students of vocal music, accounting and medicine.

Record-breaking success and recognition

The Fire Up for Excellence campaign has broken every previous fundraising record at CMU, Martin said. For three consecutive years, CMU received more than $20 million in private support — the most ever received — and is on track to repeat that success for a fourth year.

The 2018 Day of Giving was the largest in CMU's history — 1,339 donors made gifts exceeding $142,000 — and saw the highest-ever participation rate from faculty and staff. Additionally, every member of the university's Board of Trustees, Advancement Board, National Alumni Board and Young Alumni Board made a gift.

Every gift, large and small, supports students and helps CMU surpass its goal, Martin said.

He noted that student callers from CMU's Phonathon raised more than $2.3 million in individual donations, most in amounts of $100 or less. Their success is the result of more than 3 million calls to alumni and friends. Many of these contributions support popular programs such as the Student Emergency Fund and CMU's new Student Food Pantry.

The campaign also attracted national notice from leaders in design, marketing, media and communications.

The Fire Up for Excellence campaign videos, produced by alum Scott Nadeau and Jennifer Cotter, executive director of advancement and campaign management, received numerous awards including a Telly Award and an International MarCom Award The campaign also received an Excellence in Design award from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

More successes to come

Martin said the campaign will continue through fall of 2019 and conclude with a celebration during CMU's homecoming festivities.

"We are thankful for what our donors and alumni have done and what others will do in the months to come," he said. "Fire Up Chips!"

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