Donors break annual fundraising record despite pandemic



At a time when receptions, events and meetings were either cancelled or held virtually because of the pandemic, JMU donors stepped up to support the university more than ever before. JMU finished the fiscal year that ended on June 30 at $23.2 million in private gifts, returning to the year-over-year increases seen since Unleashed: The Campaign for James Madison University began seven years ago.

Giving by 16,605 donors in FY21 brought the cumulative total of Unleashed to $212,392,078. The campaign continues through June 30, 2022, with a total donor goal of 60,000 and an additional $11 million in scholarships.

Lockdowns triggered by the spread of COVID-19 in the spring of 2020 caused many prospective donors to pause and reflect while dealing with the uncertainty, which slowed the year-over-year rise in fundraising totals last fiscal year. But then JMU donors came roaring back. “Such generosity during a time of great need and uncertainty is what you would expect of the JMU community,” said Nick Langridge (’00, ’07M, ’14Ph.D.), vice president of university advancement.

Powerful new initiatives for scholarship giving were a growth area in 2021. After reaching the $200 million dollar goal for Unleashed 18 months ahead of schedule in March, fundraising priorities centered on scholarships, and donors responded. “We put the right investment opportunities in front of our community and our donors recognized not only the need, but the high return potential on their investment,” Langridge said.

New initiatives include Women for Madison’s Amethyst Circle, which is focused on funding scholarships to open doors to more students. The new group set a goal to attract 10 founding members at $15,000 each and zoomed past 50 in no time. The ultimate goal for the Amethyst Circle is 200 women giving $5,000 each for a combined $1 million every two years.

During a year of so many disappointments, JMU donors didn’t disappoint. In 2020’s end-of-year giving report, Langridge was quoted as saying, “As we head into fiscal year 2021, frankly, we are counting on the philanthropy of our faithful to serve as a stabilizing force and bolster our rise above the chaos of this pandemic.” As evidence shows, that’s exactly what’s happening.

—Andy Perrine (’86)

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Published: Friday, October 1, 2021

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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