$450.9 Million ‘Campaign Montana’ Concludes With State Higher Education Giving Record

Sept. 25, 2020

Missoula – The University of Montana has concluded the most ambitious and successful higher education fundraising campaign in state history.

Over seven years, the comprehensive “Campaign Montana – Think Big. Be Bold.” inspired $450.9 million in giving from more than 34,000 donors to elevate every UM student, college, school and program. The campaign exceeded every goal, including the initial $320 million goal set during the quiet phase that began in July 2013, the $400 million goal announced when the campaign launched publicly in October 2018 and the aspirational goal of 110% ($440 million) established during the campaign’s final year.

The philanthropic support Campaign Montana inspired is vital to achieving the UM mission. Private gifts from individuals, families, businesses and foundations augment state support, student tuition and fees, research grants and other operating revenue. Donor giving translates into scholarships and investments in learning environments and academic programs, providing resources that enhance access to higher education, deliver critical applied learning and career preparation experiences, and transform lives.

From its inception, Campaign Montana focused on inspiring support for student success. When the campaign launched publicly just after President Seth Bodnar joined UM in 2018, he issued an aspirational call to action for the UM family, asking its members to think big and be bold while striving to shape a university that places student success at the center of all it does, and drives excellence and innovation in our teaching, research and learning.

“The record-setting gifts received during Campaign Montana already have had big impacts for UM and our students and will continue to impact them for decades to come,” Bodnar said. “Supporters from across the globe responded to the aspirations reflected in Campaign Montana, and their generous contributions have provided critical momentum toward our trajectory to be a Flagship for the Future.”

In addition to University-wide leadership fundraising priorities and goals, each UM college and school, as well as Grizzly Athletics, the Flathead Lake Biological Station, the Montana Museum of Art and Culture and other programs, established fundraising objectives for the campaign. Together, each donor and every gift – no matter the size – made a difference in the campaign. Highlights include:

  • Donors represented all 50 states and gave nearly 100,000 gifts.
  • More than 16,000 donors were inspired to support UM for the first time during the campaign.
  • Donors committed more than $110 million through planned gifts that will provide critical support to UM in the future.
  • Donors gave more than $58 million through annual giving efforts such as Giving Tuesday and the UM Phonathon.

While the final months of Campaign Montana took place during the COVID-19 pandemic, donors found new meaning in supporting students during unprecedented times. Generous alumni and friends donated more than $108,000 to the Emergency Student Support Fund for students struggling to meet basic needs due to the pandemic. Through the state’s Montana Access Scholarship program, donors gave more than $436,000 to support need-based scholarships, and their gifts were matched dollar-for-dollar by the state. Such support is more important now than ever as students encounter unexpected financial hardships due to the pandemic.

Campaign Montana inspired private giving that will have a transformative effect on thousands of students and the entire UM community for years to come. Many of their gifts were directed to the following areas.

Scholarships and Student Support

With more than $126 million donated for student scholarships and support, Campaign Montana gifts are enhancing access to higher education, strengthening professional academic advising services and allowing UM colleges, schools and other programs to deliver critical services and resources students need to persist and succeed toward graduation.

Donors supported student scholarships more than any other area during the campaign. With over $97 million contributed, UM provided more than 14,000 students with privately funded scholarships over the campaign’s seven years.

While an $11 million gift in 2014 represented the largest pledge for scholarships in UM history, gifts for scholarships that support undergraduate students and fellowships that support graduate students came in all sizes. The 514 new undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships established during the campaign represented a variety of forms as well.

Numerous scholarships honor the memory of a donor’s loved one. Many donors chose to establish an endowed scholarship or fellowship by requesting their gift be invested in perpetuity and a portion of investment earnings made available to support scholarships each year. Some scholarships support students meeting certain criteria, such as pursuing a particular field of study, re-entering the workforce or having served in the military. Need-based scholarships provide access to higher education for students who couldn’t afford it otherwise.

Memorably, a donor who asked to remain anonymous sent an unexpected $5 million check by U.S. mail in 2014 to fund such scholarships.

Private support through the campaign directly supports students in other ways as well. It is enabling UM’s top-rated programs like Wildlife Biology to recruit the nation’s brightest students.

In keeping student success at the center of the campaign, philanthropy enabled the College of Business to establish the Larry and Dee Dee Gianchetta Student Success Center, a one-stop shop for academic advising, internship placement support, career coaching, scholarship information, graduate programs and career development. As the first connection with new students, the center serves 300 students each month.

The Gianchetta Student Success Center serves as a model on campus for this kind of student support. A lead gift is allowing the College of Humanities & Sciences to create a similar student success hub, and other colleges are pursuing similar initiatives. Donors also supported the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation’s Native American Natural Resource Program, which provides individualized guidance to help students stay on track to graduate.

Facilities and Learning Environments

Donor support for facilities during the campaign totaled more than $50 million. These gifts have enabled UM to renovate or build facilities across campus to enrich learning environments.

The new wing of the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education provides expanded space for early childhood education, counseling and the Montana Digital Academy, while the college’s new ALi Auditorium hosts classes, statewide meetings and national conferences.

In Grizzly Athletics, donor support built the Washington-Grizzly Champions Center, one of the premier training and locker facilities in the nation, and the Eric and Blair Sprunk Student-Athlete Academic Center, offering academic support to all of UM’s 300-plus student-athletes. Construction on a new donor-supported basketball facility is scheduled to begin in April 2021.

In the College of Humanities & Sciences, private giving supported classroom renovations, enhanced technology, upgraded infrastructure, a new building entrance and a renovated 120-seat auditorium in Dennis and Gretchen Eck Hall. Donor support also allowed the college to renovate the Philip L. Wright Zoological Museum, improving specimen storage and more.

When state funding enabled UM to open a new Missoula College building on its River Campus in 2017, donor support helped optimize the learning spaces and labs with technology, equipment and furnishings. Philanthropy continues to help Missoula College leadership expand its programmatic reach and provide student support for career preparedness.

Across campus, a 2019 leadership gift and other contributions will help the Montana Museum of Art and Culture bring its vast collection of thousands of compelling works of art from campus storage into public view and engagement. Campaign Montana gifts also funded renovation of the Mansfield Library Learning Commons, transforming it into a centerpiece of academic life for students, and provided the resources needed to establish the School of Journalism’s Montana Media Lab, which works to improve news literacy and knowledge in digital storytelling.

Academic Programming and Experiential Learning

More than $91 million in giving to support academic programs during the campaign has allowed the University to expand the boundaries of faculty-led research, pursue academic innovations and augment traditional classroom learning with more access to field coursework, study abroad programs and internships.

Donor support is helping launch the S.E.A. Change Initiative for UM Students, a new program focused on equity for all that prepares students to be change-drivers who champion gender equity. Multiple gifts to the EdReady program have supported the innovative math and English readiness initiative that more than 585 educational organizations statewide have implemented.

Donors made it possible for the Flathead Lake Biological Station to launch an interdisciplinary summer internship program, introduce a popular new program that engages K-12 students with its science and add a new water quality monitoring site in Polson Bay, as well as early detection monitoring for new aquatic invasive species.

In the field of health care, donors helped expand the reach of UM’s Neural Injury Center in serving our state’s veterans and their families, and a private grant is allowing the University to expand neuroscience education across multiple disciplines. A gift to UM Health and Medicine is helping expand UM’s commitment to educating health care practitioners for communities across Montana, and donors are supporting student training programs that prepare graduates for rural medical careers.

Montana’s only law school received a $10 million donation in 2015. The school was named the Alexander Blewett III School of Law in recognition of that gift, which supported a number of areas including scholarships and academic programming. Additional Blewett School of Law gifts helped establish and enhance the Max S. Baucus Institute, which grows innovative programs that inspire and prepare the next generation of public servants.

UM received the largest donation in its history with a $24 million pledge from the Franke family in 2016. The gift established the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, focusing both current and endowed resources on undergraduate scholarships and graduate fellowships, endowed faculty positions and financial support for undergraduates learning about conservation through study abroad and service-learning projects. The gift also created a significant endowment and current support for the Franke Global Leadership Initiative, which enriches the UM experience by providing students with global perspectives through interdisciplinary coursework, out-of-classroom experiences, advising, and support.

Faculty and Staff Support

Campaign donors provided more than $45 million to support faculty and staff, including support that created 16 new endowed faculty positions that help UM recruit and retain top faculty.

A 2014 estate gift established a named directorship for the Montana Museum of Art and Culture. Two UM families came together in 2016 to help the College of Business create UM’s first endowed dean’s position, a donor established UM’s first chair in the humanities and additional gifts established or endowed named chairs, professorships and faculty fellowships in a number of disciplines. The Blewett School of Law added an endowed chair in consumer law and protection. The W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation added endowed chairs in forest conservation; watershed hydrology; and parks, tourism and recreation management; as well as a professorship in forestry and conservation. The Wildlife Biology program received support for one of its existing endowed chairs. The Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and the School of Music each received gifts allowing them to establish their first-ever endowed professorships.

Such a successful campaign could only be completed with the support of dedicated donors and volunteers. Alumni and donors Betsy Ross Wilcox and A. Warren Wilcox served as co-chairs of Campaign Montana’s quiet phase, while alumni and donors Mark and Cheryl Burnham served as co-chairs of its public phase. Volunteers serving on an executive committee guided the campaign, and a steering committee worked alongside deans, the director of athletics and other UM leaders to serve as ambassadors and invite support of program-specific priorities.

UM supporters have made a transformational impact for the students of today and have planned carefully to ensure their giving benefits future generations. Their inspirational support remains critical, said Cindy Williams, president and CEO of the UM Foundation.

The University of Montana is positioned to serve its mission and deliver on its promise because of Campaign Montana donors,” Williams said. “Our donors’ passion for preparing students to lead, to uplift our communities and to make our world a better place is an inspiration. As the UM Foundation continues to support the mission-critical work happening at UM, continued partnership with our donors is as critical as ever.

Campaign Montana was a joint endeavor of UM and UM Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization that has inspired philanthropic support to enhance excellence and opportunity at UM since 1950.

In June 2020, the UM Foundation earned an Educational Fundraising Award for Overall Improvement from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. The award recognizes “colleges, universities and affiliated foundations that demonstrate significant fundraising program growth.” The UM Foundation’s work was similarly recognized by CASE in 2015. The organization also earned a 2019 CASE Education Fundraising Award for Overall Performance, which recognizes overall fundraising program growth, breadth in the base of support and other indications of a mature, well-maintained program. 

For inspiring stories about the success of Campaign Montana and the transformational impact of your generosity, read the Raising Montana newsletter.

Visit Campaign Montana or contact the UM Foundation at 406-243-2593 to learn more about the impact of Campaign Montana and to find an ongoing fundraising priority that aligns with the impact you would like to make in the world.