Grinnellians remain committed to philanthropy throughout turbulent year

July 22, 2021 — A pandemic and a slew of other challenges in 2020-21 could not stand in the way of Grinnellians investing in Grinnell’s current and future students.

A total of 7,806 individuals made gifts to Grinnell College during the past year, an increase of 180 donors from the previous year. This tremendous engagement figure includes gifts from alumni, students, faculty, staff, friends of the College, as well as parents of current and former students. The number of alumni donors alone rose from 4,979 to 5,358, an increase of 7.6 percent.

Grinnell College President Anne Harris
   President Anne F. Harris

“In a year like we have never experienced before, we came together as only Grinnellians can,” says Grinnell College President Anne F. Harris. “As a community, we faced a great many challenges that necessitated adapting and reimagining the academic experiences we provide our students. In partnership with our wonderful supporters, Grinnell was able to not only withstand the trials of this unprecedented year with grace and determination, but thrive.”

The total philanthropic gifts and commitments in fiscal year 2021 – which spanned from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021 – reached $17,907,839. Receipts for FY 2021 – one-time gifts, payments on pledges, and realized bequests – totaled $10.2 million.

“My gratitude for our donors’ commitment knows no bounds,” Harris says. “We all share in the successes of this past year that, once again, proves how together, we truly are greater.”

The majority of donors (4,324) made contributions to the College’s unrestricted Pioneer Fund. Collectively, this group generated receipts of $1.75 million.

This wide-ranging philanthropy was especially witnessed during Grinnell’s sixth annual Scarlet & Give Back Day on April 14-15. A total of 2,299 Grinnell alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents, and friends of the College gave over $1.14 million within 36 hours.

Graph: Bars showing amount given this year. Text shares the actual totals. Pioneer Fund: $7.26m, Scholarships: $5.34m, Individually Advised Teaching & Learning: $2.96m , CLS: 1.33m, IGE: 87k, World-Class facilities: 620k, TBD: 315k. Total Given 17,907,839

Joining together

Another heartwarming philanthropic occurrence during the past year was how Grinnellians came together to fund new initiatives aimed at social justice and student success.

In taking a public stand in support of racial justice, the Alumni Council established the Endowed Internship for Racial Justice to support Grinnell students who wish to intern with groups pursuing some aspect of racial justice. All 26 Council members made gifts to the internship fund as did many former Council members. In total, more than $105,000 was given or pledged.

Grace Duffy ’22
   Grace Duffy ’22

Grace Duffy ’22 is the first student to receive funding for her internship. She is interning this summer for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Texas, working on issues related to detention centers, the Mexican border, and immigration services.

“To have alumni care about the causes that students are working for is a big motivating factor,” she says.

Another group of donors came together to establish the Laurel Scholars Program Fund.

The Laurel Scholars mentorship program offers pre-arrival programming, tuition scholarships, and additional need-based financial aid to assist with the cost of room and board for Black students from the Chicago area.

Incoming students benefit from the opportunity to bond with each other and prepare for the college transition with mentorship from recent Black alumni. 

Another new initiative is the Dean’s Discretionary Fund for Student Support and Success at the College. Established by Susan Reid ’74, the fund supports students’ financial needs comprehensively across campus. Housing, travel, and technology needs are a few examples of how the fund is being used. It could be especially beneficial for students remaining on campus during holidays and school breaks.

Campaign concludes with a flourish

Fiscal year 2021 also marked the final year in The Campaign for Grinnell College. Over the eight-year course of the comprehensive campaign $189,109,377 million was raised, exceeding the College’s goal of $175 million. This is the largest collective gift from alumni and donors in the history of Grinnell College.

In total, 19,523 Grinnellians passionately invested in students during the campaign, creating visionary programs, groundbreaking opportunities, and an exceptional educational experience.

“This campaign was about empowering Grinnellians to make a positive impact on the world,” says Jaci A. Thiede, vice president for development and alumni relations. “That became especially significant given the challenges of the past 18 months. It was rewarding to see the campaign finish so strongly. This generosity allowed the College to remain flexible and responsive in the face of big challenges, and had a direct and immediate impact on students while also laying the groundwork for the success of students in years to come.”

A Reunion like no other

The pandemic forced the retooling and reimaging of many alumni events, including Grinnell’s annual reunion weekend, which was held virtually for the first time. A total of 819 alumni registered to attend the weeklong event full of engaging programs.

The classes of 1989, 1990, and 1991 celebrate Reunion with a virtual class dinner.
Alumni from the classes of 1989, 1990, and 1991 remotely reunite during a 30th reunion class dinner at Virtual Reunion 20/21.

Reunion Committees not only pivoted to planning virtual events, but they also ardently raised money for class gifts. Half the class of 1971 participated in fundraising during their 50th reunion year. They collectively raised an impressive $4.6 million including more than $2.5 million in gifts, pledges, and planned gifts for the Class of 1971 Endowed Scholarship Fund. An additional $125,655 in gifts and pledges were made to support the Andrew W. Loewi ’71 Washington D.C. Internship.

In honor of its 25th reunion, the class of 1996 created a senior loan reduction scholarship, which provided 20 students with loan reductions just before their graduation.

For its 10th reunion, 70 donors from the class of 2011 supported a wide variety of funds, including the Ragnar Thorrisson Endowed Memorial Fund, which honors Ragnar’s inherent sense of social justice through the Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS) Service and Innovation Grant Program.

Two 1960s classes were leaders among all classes with respect to participation and total gifts. For the second consecutive year, the class of 1968 had the highest class percentage of participation with 61.6%. The class of 1964 had the highest gift receipts ($676,206).

Giving by current and former parents of Grinnell students also was a highlight in FY 21. 1,641 parents made a gift to Grinnell, with total receipts topping $491,000.

Alumni Senior Award winners for 2021
Oscar Buchanan ’21, left, Amelia Zoernig ’21, Avery Barnett ’21, and Thomas Hexter ’21 display Alumni Senior Awards and Lori Ann Schwab Prize for Community Service awards at the 2021 Baccalaureate ceremony. Alumni volunteers helped select the recipients.

Volunteerism also played a vital role in Grinnell’s success during fiscal year 2021. A total of 1,569 alumni and students volunteered, including tireless work by class agents, class fund directors, regional volunteers, Reunion committees, CLS volunteers, and members of the Alumni Council and Student Alumni Council.

Here are some other highlights from fiscal year 2021:

  • 155 virtual events were held the past 12 months drawing 2,693 unique attendees, including 2,382 alumni.
  • A total of 1,099 alumni registered to attend 17 Virtual Alumni College lectures given by Grinnell faculty members.
  • 122 alumni wrote emails to welcome 489 incoming class of 2025 students between May and June.
  • Class fund directors and class volunteers sent 68,934 email messages through the Give Campus volunteer portal.
  • The College welcomed 350 first-time donors.
  • Alums from the classes of 2010 through 2020 gave $97,674.
  • 398 students and alumni formed connections through their participation in the Student Alumni Council Pen Pal Program.
  • 53 young alumni participated in Young Alumni Listening Sessions with President Harris to inform and shape young alumni engagement strategies.
  • Grinnellians interacted with the Alumni and Friends Facebook page via likes, shares, clicks, and comments a total of 12,298 times.
  • Class agents sent out 72 class letters, 26 class note blasts, and 10 class emails.

“It’s gratifying that so many alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents, and friends of the College have played a role in sustaining Grinnell’s excellence,” Thiede says. “The education that Grinnell provides has a lasting impact on personal lives, communities, and the entire world. We deeply thank you for your continued engagement and philanthropic support.”

— by Jeremy Shapiro

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

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