MIDDLEBURY, Vt.-Middlebury College announced today that it has successfully completed a $40 million fundraising initiative that required the College to secure commitments from donors for $30 million in order to receive an anonymous $10 million gift. The College had eight months to raise the $30 million during a time of national economic downturn, which has dampened the fundraising efforts of many of the nation’s charitable institutions. According to Giving U.S.A., a publication of the AAFRC Trust for Philanthropy that was researched and written by The Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, giving to educational institutions has dropped 2.6 percent over the past year.

In an announcement issued today, Middlebury College President John M. McCardell Jr. reported that the College had exceeded its goal, raising more than $40 million, including the original $10 million challenge gift. He noted that the final total is likely to be larger still, as last minute contributions are received and counted.

The College was offered the $10 million gift by an anonymous donor in October of 2002, with the stipulation that additional commitments of $30 million be received by June 30, 2003, and actual payments made by June 30, 2005.

According to Churchill Franklin, chair of the College’s board of trustees, Middlebury trustees accepted the $10 million challenge gift with some trepidation because of the short amount of time allowed to raise the additional $30 million, and because the nation’s current unfavorable economic conditions could substantially tax the generosity of donors. “We took this on with absolutely no certainty that we could meet the short deadline,” said Franklin. “I am enormously impressed, and very grateful to the alumni, parents, friends, and other supporters of the College who stepped up and made this effort such a stunning success,” he said. “The $10 million challenge gift inspired our donors to stretch beyond expected giving levels, and to provide substantial new funds at a time when the College most needs them. I am convinced that our donors responded in large measure because of the College’s well articulated, compelling mission. Middlebury exhibits a clarity of purpose that inspires the kind of confidence that motivates donors to be extremely generous,” he said.

According to McCardell, meeting the fundraising challenge enables the College to maintain momentum as it undertakes several major initiatives that include construction of a new library, and student residence halls and dining facilities that will move the College closer to a fully functioning commons-based residential system. “This successful fundraising effort will enable us to proceed with the ambitious commitments we’ve made recently to move this College significantly and dramatically forward,” said McCardell. “The fact that so much was raised in so short a period of time is typical of Middlebury’s ability to take on an ambitious endeavor and complete it with flair, even when the philanthropic climate is less than ideal,” he said.

The challenge gift made the situation even more difficult for College fundraisers because it followed closely on the heels of the College’s Bicentennial Campaign. Donors had contributed more than $200 million when the campaign ended in 2001. In recent years, however, the underperformance of the stock market has substantially eroded the value of the institution’s endowment, threatening to curtail the College’s plans for capital improvements and program development. To move ahead with these projects and initiatives, additional funds were needed above and beyond what the Bicentennial Campaign brought in. The challenge gift provides new financial resources to help compensate for the loss of endowment spending power.

Commenting on the College’s success in the midst of such a poor climate for fundraising, McCardell said the College has a history of taking bold actions that seem to run counter to conventional wisdom. “This successful venture illustrates the value of going forward boldly even when faced with unfavorable circumstances. This College has repeatedly shown an abiding belief in its supporters to provide significant financial resources in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. That the trustees embraced and generously supported this challenge, that donors were willing to dig deep to help us meet this significant goal under a very demanding deadline, and that this ambitious challenge was accepted cheerfully and energetically by those charged with obtaining the commitments from donors, is business as usual at Middlebury,” he said.

In addition to supporting the new library, commons residences, and dining facilities, gifts and pledges to the challenge will support the current costs of educating students through annual fund commitments, and endowment gifts for scholarships, program funds, and other core needs.