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News & Events for the Smith College Community
Supporting Smith July 31, 2018

‘The Strength of Our Community’: A Stellar Fundraising Year

Fundraising thank you graphic

Laila Plamondon ’08 makes a gift to Smith every year for one simple reason: “I want Smith to continue to be a strong college for smart, passionate women.”

Laila Plamondon ’08 makes a gift to Smith every year for one simple reason: “I want Smith to continue to be a strong college for smart, passionate women.”

Her classmate, Meredith Duncan ’08, supports Smith, she says, because Smith made an investment in her future, and she wants to make sure that other women have the same opportunities.

“Financial aid was one of the deciding factors for me to go to Smith,” Duncan says. “I want that to be true for as many Smithies as possible. Making a Smith education a possibility for women from all socioeconomic backgrounds is very important to me.”

“Small gifts are the backbone of participation. When taken collectively, they send a powerful message that we support Smith College and everything it does for the world.”

Plamondon and Duncan are two of the nearly 15,700 alumnae, parents and friends of Smith who helped make the past year one of the most successful in recent Smith history. By the end of the college’s fiscal year on June 30, more than $69 million—including $13 million for financial aid—had been raised to support a broad range of curricular initiatives, capital projects and scholarships for students.

“We have sustained the great momentum that began with our Women for the World campaign, and that is pretty remarkable,” says Beth Raffeld, vice president for development. “Our philanthropic partners, at all levels, understand the unique value of the Smith experience and want to make sure that this great college remains strong and responsive to the needs of our students.”

President Kathleen McCartney expressed gratitude to all the people who make Smith a philanthropic priority. “I continue to be inspired by the dedication and unwavering support of our community,” she says. “Making a gift is a very personal act. Our alumnae and friends can choose to give to many different causes and organizations. That they choose to give to Smith is an expression of their deep and thoughtful support of our mission and of women’s education.”

The Smith Fund, which forms the foundation of the college’s fundraising efforts, met its $12.5 million goal for the year. Dollars raised through The Smith Fund are used to offset college expenses and contribute to Smith’s financial aid program. In 2017–18, about 65 percent of students received financial aid, totaling close to $69 million—up from $42 million a decade ago.

Contributing to The Smith Fund’s success were several fundraising challenges that rallied alumnae and other donors. In June, for example, Ann Eberly Calvert ’69 offered this challenge: $100,000 if 1,000 donors made gifts in 12 days. In the same month, Judy Hershey Melly pledged $85,000 if 850 donors made gifts in nine days, and Mary Ann Goodman Quinson ’58 gave $50,000 because 500 donors made gifts in five days.

“Alumnae really get behind these challenges,” says Maria Held, director of The Smith Fund. “It is incredible that a group of people can give $25 or $100 each and Smith gets $50,000 or more. We are very lucky to have such generous sponsors come forward for these efforts. They love knowing that their philanthropy is having such a profound impact.”

Betsy Carpenter ’93, Smith’s director of development, notes that a number of important initiatives helped fuel the college’s fundraising success this year. In particular, the renovation of Neilson Library inspired several significant gifts. More than $31 million has been raised toward the library’s construction and programming, with over $11 million in 2017–18 alone.

“Neilson is the intellectual heart of Smith, and it is a touchstone for alumnae of all generations,” Carpenter says. “Clearly, people are excited by the renovation and are eager to support the plans we have for the new Neilson.”

Nearly 56 percent of donors to Smith contributed gifts of $100 or less. “Small gifts are the backbone of participation,” Plamondon says. “When taken collectively, they send a powerful message that we support Smith College and everything it does for the world.”

For Duncan, participation in fundraising is, in many ways, more important than the size of any one gift.

“A gift to Smith isn’t just about how much you give; it’s about the fact that you make a gift at all,” she says. “Giving is a sign of alumnae support and a reflection of the strength of our community. I feel lucky to be part of it, and I want that opportunity to be available to as many students as possible.”