By Benjamin Pontz, Editor-in-Chief
Within an hour of the annual Gettysburgives Challenge’s end, the college had sent an email to the Gettysburg College community that declared, “We did it again!”
But the 36-hour fundraising challenge fell 62 percent short of its total donation receipts from 2019 and was behind its totals from the preceding two years as well.
For the past six years in February, college development staff have planned a two-day campaign that aims to unlock a pool of “stretch gifts” pledged by college benefactors if a certain donor threshold is met. Typically, that donor threshold is the number of Gettysburg College students, which, this year, is 2,623. The college did meet and exceed that goal, totaling 3,255 donors, but this year’s stretch pool was significantly smaller than the past three years — less than one third of even the lowest year and only 15 percent of last year’s pool — which depressed the overall proceeds.
2017 Stretch Pool: $475,000
2017 Total Proceeds: $1.08 million
2018 Stretch Pool: $1.1 million
2018 Total Proceeds: $1.81 million
2019 Stretch Pool: $1 million
2019 Total Proceeds: $2.09 million
2020 Stretch Pool: $151,500
2020 Total Proceeds: $802,836
A college spokesperson did not immediately respond to several questions about the lower totals, but she did say that there are still gifts being processed. The college published a story last night that included the $802,836 figure as a total, and the proceeds listed above come from similar night-of releases issued over the past four years.
Annual giving accounts for four percent of the college’s annual budget. In 2020, the budgeted revenue for annual giving amounted to $5.3 million, a February presentation to the faculty showed. Already, the college fell short of its revenue projections for tuition this year, missing the mark by 12 percent, which led to a round of cuts as the academic year got underway.
In two weeks, Tres Mullis will take over the Development, Alumni & Parent Relations division, which has been led on an interim basis by Betsy Diehl since the Oct. 2018 retirement of Bob Kallin. The college concluded a $160 million capital campaign in 2018, at the beginning of former President Janet Morgan Riggs’ final year at the helm, and is expected to launch a new one under the leadership of Mullis and new President Bob Iuliano in short order.
Iuliano has signaled already that strengthening non-tuition revenue is key to keeping the college on firm financial footing ahead of a forthcoming nationwide decline in the number of students going to college that is expected to begin in 2025.
Given that financial picture, the Gettysburgives Challenge’s totals struck Student Senate President Patrick McKenna ’20 as all the more concerning.
“In the context of attempting to find alternative forms of revenue I think that challenges like Gettysburgives become even more important,” McKenna said, “and it’s certainly disappointing to see the overall amount of money raised halved from previous years, especially when these dollars go directly to assisting different programs on campus.”