Social work supporters contribute $3.2 million to Make It Real Campaign
“Giving 110 percent” is one of the oldest cliches in the books.
But the VCU School of Social Work’s network of donors, alumni and friends have turned a trite saying into an amazing reality. When the university closed the books on the eight-year Make It Real Campaign at the end of June, giving to the School of Social Work was at 142% of the original goal.
Our hope when the campaign kicked off in 2012 was to reach $2.25 million. Instead, our loyal supporters dug even deeper and graciously gave, or committed to give, $3.2 million.
As dean of the school, the gratitude I feel for this level of giving is, well, off the charts. This support is critical to all aspects of our school, first and foremost that it makes social work degrees more accessible to more students through scholarships.
The impact of a scholarship is powerful. One of our 2020 recipients spoke to that power in a thank-you letter to donors: “Your generosity has allowed me to reduce my financial stress at the moment and focus entirely on my studies, as I have finally opted to become a full-time student to complete the M.S.W. program. The moment I received the award letter, I shouted with an abundance of joy. So I thank you for this thoughtful investment into my future.”
As you know, we are not the School of Medicine or the School of Business; the median salary for social workers in the United States was just over $50,000 in 2019, slightly higher in Virginia. To reach – and surpass – our goal, it took the combined efforts of all our supporters, and gifts both great and small.
For example, we had 20 “major” gifts – those of $25,000 or more – that totaled $1.978 million. Overall, we had 3,896 gifts that added up to the total $3.2 million – an average of $821 per gift. Our alumni – 1,368 to be exact – were responsible for $2.5 million, or 80% of our total. We received gifts that will help us in the short term ($1.05 million in endowments) and long term ($1.8 million in planned gifts).
These 17 planned gifts, also known as estate gifts, represent a pledge from someone to have funds transferred to the school after they pass away. These commitments are deeply personal. We consider such pledges to be, in a sense, an invitation for the school to become a part of these philanthropic families; the gifts, then, are like an inheritance. This is an awesome responsibility that we handle with care and dignity.
During the eight-year Make It Real period, the school awarded 318 scholarships to students totaling more than $300,000, funded by these gifts and previous ones pre-dating the campaign. Many of the Make It Real gifts’ impacts will be felt in the years to come for students who are still in middle or high school or community college.
And the students are coming, now more than ever. We have enjoyed record enrollment in fall 2020 – nearly 1,000 students across our B.S.W., M.S.W. and Ph.D. programs – at a time when the need for social workers has never been more clear or urgent: a public health crisis, economic hardship and a long-overdue reckoning with racial and social injustice.
The School of Social Work is striving to be an epicenter for equity, committed to making an education accessible and affordable for our students, and also deeply embedded in supporting our community. We are unified with our students, partners and advocates in facing – and overcoming – both long-standing barriers and emerging crises.
To do this, though, we must continue the momentum of this successful campaign. Our students are ambitious and talented, and many just need a financial boost to push them over the finish line.
In the coming year, you will be hearing more about our philanthropic goals as a school. At the top of that list is increasing access to and affordability of all our programs, in large part by doubling the number of school scholarships.
To do that, we will need to sustain the support we received from the School of Social Work family during Make It Real. We realize that will not be easy, as so many have felt the economic impact of COVID-19. But we also know, as we have seen over the past eight years, that our alumni, donors and supporters exceed expectations when asked. And for that, we are ever grateful.
Beth Angell, Ph.D.
Dean and Professor
VCU School of Social Work