Philanthropic support for Grinnell College reaches new heights 

July 21, 2022 — Alumni and donor investment in Grinnell’s future has continued to gain momentum a year after the College wrapped up its largest fundraising campaign. 

The Campaign for Grinnell College concluded on June 30, 2021, but the philanthropic investments – along with the high degree of participation and engagement – have continued over the last year. 

Total philanthropic gifts and commitments (all outright gifts, pledges, matching gifts, and planned gifts) in fiscal year 2022 – from July 1, 2021, to June 30, 2022 – reached $33,916,810. That total is 89% higher than the previous year and the largest annual total since Grinnell’s last campaign began in 2013.

Bar Chart. Title: New Gifts and Commitments. Each bar height corresponds with amounts compared to others. FY14 $12,31m; FY15 $23,35m; FY16 $26,97m; FY17  $32.82m; FY18 $26.53m; FY19 $28.64m; FY20 $28.11m; FY21 $17.90m; FY22 $33.91m

Receipts for FY 2022 – one-time gifts, payments on pledges, and realized bequests – totaled $14.4 million, an increase of 35% from the previous year. 

“The dedication of the Grinnell College community is unbelievable,” says Jaci A. Thiede, vice president for development and alumni relations. “To go from a record fundraising campaign, to nearly $34 million in gifts and commitments the very next year is extraordinary and a credit to the incredible generosity of our alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students, and friends. Thank you for your leadership and dedication to supporting our students and sustaining the Grinnell community in countless ways.”

Backing a no-loan Grinnell 

Donor support is particularly crucial with the implementation of the College’s no loan initiative in fall 2021. That’s when Grinnell eliminated student loans in financial aid packages and replaced them with scholarships, making it possible for students to graduate without debt. Grinnell is among an elite group of fewer than 10 colleges in the U.S. that are need blind, meet 100% of demonstrated need for domestic students, and offer no loans. 

Around 90% of Grinnell students receive financial aid. Students with demonstrated financial need received an average financial aid package of $54,335 in 2021-22. The total financial aid awarded was $67.5 million for the same year. 

A group of graduates pose for a group photo after Commencement 2022.
Class of 2022 graduates gather for a group shot following the Commencement ceremony in May.

The College funded the no loan initiative through a reallocation of its operating budget, which is supported by tuition revenue, endowment returns, and philanthropy. In 2021-22, donors made more than $6.5 million in gifts and commitments to support student financial aid. 

“The no-loan initiative has reinforced Grinnell’s longstanding commitment for equal access to education,” Thiede says. “It’s uplifting to see our donors embrace this value through gifts for student financial aid. This multicultural and diverse socioeconomic makeup of Grinnellians creates a community that helps open minds and forms new ideas.”

Lasting impacts for science and arts

There were plenty of extraordinary examples of alumni generosity in 2021-22. A strong supporter and advocate for science funding, John Betts ’65 and his wife, Jennifer, set up a $13.7 million planned gift, the second largest commitment in Grinnell College history.

The Betts Faculty Endowment will be focused on interdisciplinary fields and projects that leverage research in biology, chemistry, engineering, physics, computer science, and mathematics. Coming from a family of artists, John and Jennifer also set up an endowment for the Grinnell College Museum of Art that can be used for museum programs, collection maintenance, and teaching and learning opportunities.

In December 2021, Lesley Wright retired as museum director after 22 years. In honor of her impact, the Museum of Art Leadership Council committed more than $80,000 to create and endow The Wright Fund for Diversity, Equity, Accessibility, and Inclusion (DEAI) Projects. New director Susan Baley will use the fund for projects and programming that promote these goals.

Circle Chart. Title: 2021-11 Donors. Green: Alumni 5083 (65% of chart), Purple: Parents 1467 (19%), Blue: Friends 979 (12%), Orange: Other 338 (4%).

The College’s film and media studies classes and events will have a designated home near the northwest corner of Broad Street and Fifth Avenue thanks to a lead gift commitment from Dick Knapp ’76. The Knapp Film and Media Center will be housed in a 100-year-old former auto garage that was most recently used by St. Mary’s Catholic Church.

Those examples are just a few of the 7,867 individuals who made gifts to Grinnell College during the past year, an increase of 61 unique donors from the previous year. The majority of donors (4,660) made contributions to the College’s unrestricted Pioneer Fund, totaling $2.03 million.

The College also welcomed 729 first-time donors, which was more than double last year’s number. Some of the new donors made their debut gifts during Grinnell’s seventh annual Scarlet & Give Back Day on April 13-14, when a total of 2,690 Grinnellians gave over $1.23 million within 36 hours.

Events return to campus and continue virtually

After the pandemic forced cancelations and virtual versions of many Grinnell College happenings in 2020-21, events slowly but surely returned to campus in 2021-22. Many alums made their first trip back to Grinnell in June for Reunion 2022, the first in-person, on-campus Alumni Reunion Weekend since 2019. The campus welcomed 1,037 alumni and their family members. In numerous conversations throughout campus, alums mentioned how good it was to return to their alma mater and spend time with their classmates.

Two weeks later, 581 alums from the classes of 2014-2021 and their guests filled campus with revelry. This one-time Young Alumni Weekend was designed to be a homecoming gathering for alums who had not been back together on a large scale since their respective graduations.

Reunion 2022 attendees conversate during the 55th Reunion dinner.
Reunion 2022 attendees conversate during the 55th Reunion dinner. A total of 1,037 alumni and their family members were on campus for the festivities.

The third Multicultural Reunion, held in November, presented a connected, inclusive, and engaging series of events for alums from across spectrums of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender expression, and ability. To allow for a more accessible and equitable experience, the reunion was held virtually. Nearly 200 people attended the various events, including 142 alums.

Former Pioneer student-athletes returned to campus for several athletic reunions and events. More than 100 former players returned for Football Alumni Day and 87 alums were back for Swim/Dive Alumni Weekend. Held in September 2021, the delayed 2020 Hall of Fame induction ceremony was a joyous occasion for the nine inductees and their family and friends. 

Not all events occurred in Grinnell as regional events made a comeback throughout the U.S. and the College continued facilitating an array of virtual events, such as Virtual Alumni College. There were 112 combined regional and virtual events held over the past year, drawing nearly 6,000 attendees.

Time, talent, treasure, and ties

Volunteerism remained a key ingredient in the Grinnell community’s success during fiscal year 2022. A total of 1,263 alumni and students volunteered as class agents, class fund directors, regional volunteers, Reunion Committee members, Center for Careers, Life, and Service (CLS) volunteers, Multicultural Planning Committee members, and members of the Alumni Council and Student Alumni Council.

In addition to the main event, Reunion committees also were busy with fundraising efforts. The class of 1972 raised $1.28 million in gifts, pledges, and planned gifts during its 50th reunion year. That total includes $261,621 raised for the new Class of 1972 Endowed Internship Fund. In recognition of its 25th reunion, the class of 1997 contributed $202,396 in gifts, pledges, and planned gifts, including $57,470 for the new Class of 1997 Endowed Scholarship Fund. Overall, 1,191 donors from Reunion 2022 classes collectively gave $7,386,614 in gifts, pledges, and planned gifts.

A group photo of attendees of a riverboat lunch cruise hosted by the Grinnell-in-the-Twin Cities Regional Planning Committee.
Back Together Gatherings were organized in September 2021 by regional volunteers, including a riverboat lunch cruise hosted by the Grinnell-in-the-Twin Cities Regional Planning Committee.

Two classes that did not have milestone reunions were leaders among all classes with respect to participation and total gifts. For the third consecutive year, the class of 1968 had the highest percentage of participation with 57.1%. The class of 1958 had the highest gift receipt total ($1,616,458), bolstered by a realized planned gift from Joe W. Fell ’58 who had set up the Robert B. Fell 1925 Endowed Scholarship in honor of his father.

Gifts and commitments by current and former parents of Grinnell students topped $1.21 million in fiscal year 2022. Meanwhile, alums from the classes of 2011 through 2021 gave $118,618. And 239 College faculty and staff made gifts to Grinnell in FY 2022. 

Alumni and students connected in a variety of ways. The Grinnell Connect networking platform added 372 new users and nearly 1,200 messages were sent among Grinnell Connect users in support of networking and mentorship. In addition, a new series of students and alumni video meetups was launched. A total of 450 students and alums participated in these Meetaway events, leading to 1,960 connections.

Here are some other highlights from fiscal year 2022:

  • Class agents sent out 57 class letters.
  • 44 alumni hosted 52 student externs during spring break.
  • Grinnellians interacted with the Alumni and Friends Facebook page via likes, shares, clicks, and comments a total of 23,279 times, an increase of 89 percent from the previous year.
  • The official Instagram account for Grinnell College alumni and friends was launched in April and already had 744 followers by July.
  • The Grinnellian monthly e-newsletter was opened more than 111,000 times.
  • Class fund directors and Reunion volunteers sent a total of 81,782 GiveCampus messages, 13,000 more than were sent during the previous fiscal year.
  • During the Everyday Class Notes Care Package drive, alumni contributed 1,300 unique care packages, which were distributed to students in March.
  • In collaboration with the Parents and Families Leadership Council, 1,243 finals care packages were distributed to students. An additional 453 of the packages were purchased by families as kindness packages to provide a “pick me up” to students in advance of finals week.

“It was a great year, and we can’t wait to see what happens next as Grinnellians around the world continue to come together to support our students and strengthen our community,” Thiede says.

— 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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