Continued philanthropic growth at Grinnell helps students explore issues of purpose

July 18, 2019 — Financial commitments shaping the present and future of Grinnell College climbed significantly during the past year thanks to the generosity of alumni, students, parents, and friends of the College.

The total philanthropic commitments in fiscal year 2019 — which spanned from July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019 — reached $28,648,257. This total is an 8 percent increase from fiscal year 2018 and the second highest amount in the past 10 years. Based on new gifts and commitment levels, this last year is the third best fundraising year of all-time at Grinnell College.

Raynard Kington
    President Raynard S. Kington

“It is inspiring to know that Grinnell has such widespread support,” President Raynard S. Kington says. “This kind of investment has tremendous impact. These gifts are a catalyst for new ideas and new possibilities, and allow students from all different backgrounds access to a world-class educational experience. We are grateful to everyone who understands the importance of continuing to provide that access and expose students to a diverse range of ideas and experiences.”

The number of donors to Grinnell remained impressive with 9,152 individuals making gifts during the past year. That figure includes gifts from alumni, students, faculty, staff, friends of the College, as well as parents of current and former students. In all, the College welcomed 744 first-time donors.

Receipts for FY 2019 — one-time gifts, payments on pledges, and realized bequests — totaled $14.5 million.

“On behalf of the Development and Alumni Relations team, I’d like to say thank you to each and every donor and volunteer who gave to Grinnell during the past year,” says Jaci A. Thiede, vice president for development and alumni relations. “This was an exceptional year. It’s very rewarding to see the momentum gained over the past few years continue in term of philanthropic investment in the College and our students. More and more of our alumni and friends understand how transformational a Grinnell College education is, and they are stepping up to share their time and resources to strengthen the learning that goes on here.”

The majority of donors (5,373) made unrestricted contributions to the College’s Pioneer Fund. Collectively, this group generated total receipts of $1.72 million. Additionally, donors made gifts to numerous areas of their choosing, such as scholarships; global experiences for students; facility projects; academic excellence; and supporting internships and externships through gifts to the Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS).

This wide-ranging philanthropy was seen during Grinnell’s fifth annual Scarlet & Give Back Day on April 10-11. Grinnell alumni and friends gave over $1 million within 36 hours! Two different challenges were achieved by donors. First, a $2-for-$1 match from an anonymous donor helped raise over $750,000 during the first day. Then the Board of Trustees stepped up with a second challenge, which, when met, netted another $150,000 in gifts from Trustees.

Approximately 200 students, faculty, and staff joined in creating a Human Laurel Leaf at Darby Gym in celebration of the fifth annual Scarlet & Give Back Day.
Approximately 200 students, faculty, and staff joined in creating a Human Laurel Leaf at Darby Gym in celebration of the fifth annual Scarlet & Give Back Day.

“To raise $1 million in such a short period of time is a testament to the giving spirit of Grinnellians,” Thiede says. “It speaks volumes to our students as well, reinforcing that they are attending an institution that has alumni and friends who understand the importance of giving back and providing them with innovative opportunities.”

Planned gifts to the College were also on the rise in fiscal year 2019. Of note, $4.7 million was raised in the form of life income gifts. Such gifts not only help the College, but also provide annual income to the donors during their lifetime.

One extraordinary example of this was an investment of $4.25 million from Carlos Mendoza ’72 to create the Guillermo Mendoza Endowed Chair. The new position in the biology department will be awarded in the future to a faculty member with exceptional academic, scholarly, and teaching achievements. The chair is named after Carlos’ father, Guillermo, who served as a biology professor and pre-med adviser at the College for 34 years.

A similar tribute launched this past year in honor to Luther and Jenny Erickson for their decades-long teaching, encouragement, mentorship, and support of Grinnell students. More than 35 gifts and commitments were made in recognition of the Ericksons to establish the Luther & Jenny Erickson Endowed Professor of Chemistry. The professorship, which has been awarded to Lesley Lyons, will serve to both recruit and retain generations of future faculty members that embody the characteristics generously shared by the Ericksons.

While notable, these two endowments were far from the only major gifts Grinnell received in 2018-19. In fact, Grinnell received 85 major gifts and commitments of $25,000 or more during the year. Of those, more than half (44) came from individuals or households making their first major gift or commitment in support of the College.

One of those was Lu “Maggie” Bian ’09 who set up a $50,000 pledge during her 10th reunion year in honor of her former Grinnell professor and mentor. The Professor Andrew Hsieh Career Exploration Fund will supplement two unpaid student summer internship experiences, one of which will be in an international venue.

Likewise, another gift is already providing students with career development experiences. Grinnell College Trustee George Moose ’66 and his wife Judith R. Kaufmann established the Program for Experiential Learning in Public Policy through a planned gift while also supporting the fund with immediate gift support. The gift’s principal purpose is to encourage students to consider careers in public service.

Volunteerism from alumni played a critical role in Grinnell’s success during fiscal year 2019, including tireless work by class agents, class fund directors, regional volunteers, Reunion class committees, Grinnell Regional Admission Support Program (GRASP) fellows and members of the Alumni Council and Student Alumni Council.

“We couldn’t have had the success we had this year without our enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers,” says Jayn Chaney ’05, director of alumni and donor relations

Students dance at the National Philanthropy Week talent show.
Students perform a dance routine during a talent show to cap off National Philanthropy Week.

Here are some other highlights from fiscal year 2019:

  • More than 1,000 alumni, family, and friends from 41 different classes as far back as 1954 returned to campus to take part in Reunion 2019. Attendees came from 46 states, Washington D.C., and seven foreign nations.
  • Reunion classes endowed four different student scholarships. The scholarships created were the Class of 1969 Martin Luther King, Jr. Endowed Scholarship, the Class of 1979 Endowed Scholarship, the Class of 1994 Scholarship, and the Daniel Samen Follmer ’05 Endowed Scholarship.
  • About 43 percent of the outgoing Class of 2019 donated toward the senior class gift, raising a total of $9,618. A portion of the gift was directed to a campus memorial remembering Jacob “Jack” Gustafson ’19, who passed away in 2018 while on an off-campus study program in Germany.
  • The College’s new Admission and Student Financial Services Center opened in fall 2018 and the new sections of the Humanities and Social Studies Center (HSSC) opened in January 2019. A total of 436 donors have made gifts associated with these new facilities.
  • In partnership with alumni and more than 100 regional volunteers, Grinnell hosted over 95 events across the country and around the world, welcoming more than 3,000 alumni, students, parents, and friends.
  • Grinnellians worldwide participated in the fifth annual Global Day of Service, which celebrates Founders’ Day and the College’s strong commitment to social responsibility.
  • In November, the Grinnell Student Alumni Council engaged about 400 students in National Philanthropy Week, a program designed to recognize the importance of philanthropy.
  • Through the 2019 Grinnell externship program, 65 alumni volunteers provided job shadowing externships during spring break to 73 students.
  • Grinnell College alumni members of the Everyday Class Notes (ECN) Facebook group made and shipped 1,380 care packages to Grinnell students in February.
  • Through the Center for Careers, Life and Service Careers Communities, a total of 30 alumni hosted students at their workplaces or through their career networks as part of spring break career exploration treks to Boston, Seattle, and Washington D.C.
  • Grinnell launched the Parents and Families Program, raising $656,559 in gifts to support the College during Fiscal Year 2019.

“Through all these wonderful gifts and service, Grinnell remains a beacon in the world that attracts the best and brightest students to explore their interests, learn more about themselves, their peers, and the world around them,” Kington says. “We extend our very sincere thanks to the alumni and friends of the College for making this possible. Your commitment continues to shape the Grinnell community.”

For your information:

For more information about giving to, or volunteering for, Grinnell College, please call the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at 866-850-1846 or send an email to