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W&M’s $1B For the Bold campaign concludes

  • The Empire State Building at night with green and gold uplighting
    For the Bold  The Empire State Building was illuminated in green and gold Sept. 29, 2016, as the university launched its $1 billion For the Bold campaign in New York City, one of several regional kickoffs for the campaign. Since For the Bold’s inception nearly a decade ago, gifts from donors have funded more than $303 million in scholarships for students. Scholarships topped the list of priorities, with more than a third of all scholarships at the university created during the campaign.  University Advancement photo
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Campaign’s transformational initiatives and revolutionary ideas changed lives for the better

William & Mary completed its boldest fundraising campaign yet, with $1.04 billion raised, ties among alumni and alma mater strengthened and its status as the No. 1 public university for alumni participation cemented several years in a row. For nearly a decade, the For the Bold campaign infused revolutionary ideas and bold initiatives into the 327-year-old institution of higher learning. The campaign led to wide-ranging transformations across the university and new opportunities and experiences for generations of students, faculty, alumni and staff. 

Since For the Bold’s inception nearly a decade ago, gifts from donors have funded more than $303 million in scholarships for students. Scholarships topped the list of priorities, with more than a third of all scholarships at the university created during the campaign. As millions of families in the U.S. face financial hardships during the pandemic, scholarships have become increasingly important to afford exceptional students the opportunity to attend William & Mary. The Scholarships Impact Fund, which provides immediate support for students, also saw a four-fold increase in annual donors since the beginning of the campaign. 

Even in the midst of a pandemic and uncertainty in the world, the university raised more than $149.9 million this fiscal year (FY) — the single largest fundraising year ever for the university. Philanthropy has and will continue to be an increasingly important source of funding for William & Mary and higher education institutions around the world. 

For the Bold has been a campaign about people and it will continue to shape the stories and change the lives of so many at William & Mary for the better,” said Campaign Chair Sue Hanna Gerdelman ’76. “Through times of triumph and tribulations, the campaign has provided a stream of resources that have enabled the great minds who come to William & Mary to innovate, seize new opportunities and pursue their passions.” 

Gerdelman added, Our For the Bold campaign has been a constant during so much uncertainty, often being the impetus to greater community action to advance what we value most.” 

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Transformational initiatives

Campaign gifts enabled the university to purchase state-of-the-art science equipment and fueled professorships and fellowships for graduate students researching pressing global issues, including marine plastics pollution and international foreign aid spending. The generosity of donors led to the establishment of new spaces and initiatives designed to help students flourish, including the McLeod Tyler Wellness CenterShenkman Jewish Centerthe Institute for Integrative Conservation (IIC)Camp Launch, the Flanagan Counselor Education Clinic and the Center for Online Learning, just to name a few.

The campaign also brought to life the cutting-edge W&M VET program for student-veterans, the Entrepreneurship Hub, Hixon Center for Experiential Learning and Leadership, the Boehly Center for Excellence in Finance, the Alumni House expansion and The Martha Wren Briggs Center for the Visual Arts, which will include the expanded Muscarelle Museum of Art.

It is also fueling the Studio for Teaching and Learning Innovation, advancing music and arts programs, expanding international initiatives and revitalizing the W&M Athletics Complex, as well as providing financial support for internships for both undergraduate and graduate students.

Importantly, the campaign provided robust funding to advance diversity and inclusion initiatives at William & Mary. Gifts supported the Center for Student Diversity, curriculum and faculty support, the Memorial to the Enslaved and the Lemon Project, which promotes greater understanding of the African American experience at William & Mary, among other efforts. In addition, new programs — such as the IIC and the Women’s Stock Pitch — bolster opportunities for women, people of color and indigenous populations to engage more fully in W&M’s educational experience.

This captures only a sliver of the impact of For the Bold. For more information and to learn more, visit our campaign website

Overcoming challenges during unprecedented times

Students are returning to classes in the fall in the midst of a pandemic. Many in our community have asked how the campaign — now and in the years ahead — will help our students to flourish and the university as a whole to overcome the challenges facing our world. They have asked how For the Bold will advance William & Mary’s mission to convene great minds and hearts to meet the most pressing needs of our time. All of the examples mentioned above and more answer these questions, added Gerdelman.

“The compassion, kindness and shared sense of purpose in our community are vividly clear at this moment. We are seeing a new level of generosity at William & Mary, a sustained focus on how to sustain resilience, and we are so grateful to everyone who is part of that groundswell,” said President Katherine A. Rowe. 

Rowe added, “Our generous donors to the For the Bold campaign have invested in efforts that push us beyond the status quo and into bold new ventures to increase equity, inclusion, grit and creativity.”

Indeed, on One Tribe One Day in June — the university’s giving day that celebrates engagement and philanthropy — William & Mary reimagined it as a day to focus on community and invest in change. In doing so, 7,136 donors contributed a collective $2.5 million in support of initiatives that will transform teaching and learning and accelerate positive change at William & Mary. This was the highest dollar total raised with the largest average gift size in the annual event’s seven-year history.

In the spring, the university also pivoted and focused the campaign almost exclusively on ways to support students, faculty and staff — and William & Mary as a whole — combat challenges posed by COVID-19. For example, emergency funds established by donors were tapped to help international students facing financial difficulties and private resources supported the newly established Studio for Teaching and Learning Innovation — enabling the university to go completely virtual. Between March 12 and May 31, donors from over 500 households contributed almost $290,000 to the Health, Emergencies, And Resources for the Tribe Fund, the International Student Scholarship Fund and the Studio for Teaching & Learning Innovation. An additional $200,000 was given to the HEART endowment by three donors during that time. 

“We talk a lot about this campaign being an investment in people and what we’ve been able to do is invest in people who are tackling some of the greatest challenges we will ever face in our lifetime. We’ve invested in people who are taking risks during a time of incredible change and transformation and in people who have the passion and courage to lead during moments of great difficulty and uncertainty,” said Matthew T. Lambert ’99, vice president for university advancement. 

“What we’ve seen is something bigger and bolder than we ever imagined — our For the Bold campaign will always be remembered as one of our most ambitious undertakings because it pushed William & Mary to expand our focus beyond Virginia to complex issues in our rapidly evolving world. This campaign has also brought our entire community together to build a durable culture of engagement and philanthropy,” Lambert added.

Community-wide support and engagement

A total of 106,644 donors contributed to For the Bold since its inception, collectively raising $1.04 billion. More than 43,000 alumni, 15,062 students,1,086 faculty and staff, 19,068 parents, 30,866 friends, 2,318 organizations, corporations and foundations supported the campaign. Since the start of the campaign, gifts of less than $100 have totaled approximately $14.7 million, reinforcing the fact that gifts of all sizes make a big difference. This is only the fourth comprehensive fundraising campaign in the 327-year-old institution’s modern history. 

Through For the Bold, William & Mary’s partnerships with private, nonprofit and public sectors have grown and strengthened, a key factor to advancing innovative solutions to some of the world’s greatest threats. These collaborations were integral components of the gift to establish the IIC as well as initiatives at the Global Research Institute, William & Mary Law School’s Lewis B. Puller Veterans Benefits Clinic and W&M’s Virginia Institute of Marine Science. They will continue to be an area the university aims to grow in the years ahead. 

As we look to the future of knowledge and work, it is increasingly important to create opportunities for students to interact with organizations and businesses known for innovation and entrepreneurial thinking. Partnerships with industries and corporations will invigorate our educational core and prepare our graduates to thrive professionally in a rapidly changing world.

During the campaign, William & Mary had one of the highest donor retention rates in the U.S., with a very large percentage of its undergraduate alumni renewing their investment in alma mater year after year. During the first year of the campaign, the university had a 23.6 percent alumni participation rate. Today according to U.S. News & World Report it is 30 percent, which places William & Mary first among all public universities in the U.S. and 17th  among all privates. This can be attributed in many ways to several new and innovative programs and initiatives that were created over the course of the campaign, including One Tribe One Day, the Class Ambassadors Program, Tag Day and Impact Week

The university also saw the creation of W&M Weekend — which provides a variety of professional, cultural, social and intellectual opportunities for alumni — Professionals WeekW&M Women’s Weekend, the Society of 1918, a reimagined Homecoming & Reunion WeekendTraditions Weekendnew virtual  programming featuring alumni experts in their fields, and so much more. These new and creative offerings are considered by many to be a reason why the university saw alumni participating in expanded activities — including new career and networking opportunities — triple since the start of the campaign.

Additionally, William & Mary expanded its alumni engagement staff to support underrepresented communities. In November 2019 and early March this year, more than 75 alumni representing Black/African American, Latino/a and LGBT+ communities met in person on campus for two retreat-style gatherings. The outcomes included establishing five goals for each community that are focused on growing the engagement, leadership and philanthropy of these underrepresented alumni communities. Each of the identity groups will connect regularly over the next year as they strive to achieve their goals. 

Shortly after its public launch on the Sunken Garden in fall 2015, For the Bold went on the road. From Washington, D.C., to New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Atlanta, Richmond, Chicago, Hampton Roads and London, and many more locations around the globe, alumni, parents and friends attended the campaign celebrations to support William & Mary and its campaign. 

At the events, students spoke about the power of scholarships, professors highlighted their research and cutting-edge programs, and donors reinforced the importance of giving back to the university that supported their success both personally and professionally. A new lighting tradition was also created while on the road — several major U.S. landmarks were illuminated in green and gold in honor of the campaign, including the iconic Empire State Building.  

“William & Mary has achieved what no other public university of our size has been able to achieve, strengthening in yet another way the university’s historic preeminence,” said W&M President Emeritus Taylor Reveley. The campaign was imagined, launched and raised $800 million during Reveley’s presidency. During his tenure, private support for William & Mary surpassed public support from the commonwealth, creating a gap between private and public nurture that has continued to grow.

“We were doggedly ambitious for the Alma Mater of the Nation. The campaign reached glorious new heights. William & Mary is and always will be a university for the bold,” Reveley added.

While For the Bold has concluded, William & Mary will continue to strengthen its culture of engagement and philanthropy. In the current financial landscape, private support will continue to be essential for the university to advance its margin of excellence and to provide robust scholarships support for exceptional William & Mary students.