The College announces $750 million comprehensive campaign

Colby recently announced an ambitious, comprehensive campaign called “Dare Northward.” The campaign has already raised over $383 million and has a six-year goal of $750 million, making it the largest pursued fund in liberal arts history.

“It’s a singular moment for Colby,” along with all liberal arts institutions, said College President David A. Greene in an interview with The Echo. Vice President for College Advancement Daniel Lugo added in an interview that “now is the time for Colby to leapfrog into the lead” ahead of other small colleges. Lugo mentioned that the campaign is a “great vehicle” for the College to gain some publicity and notoriety as it moves towards national prominence.

Blue lighting lights up downtown buildings that are owned by Colby to demonstrate the presence of Colby downtown.

Rather than a capital campaign focused on infrastructure or one particular aspect of the institution, this campaign is importantly comprehensive and “value-based”, according to Lugo, giving the College flexibility regarding what to do with the money from a campaign scheduled to complete three years after current first-years have graduated. Both Lugo and Greene stressed that “universal experiences” were important to them and the College, with Lugo pointing to “residential programs” and global internship experiences as important additions the campaign will make possible.  

Despite being in its early stages, the fund still has specific goals of expanding financial aid, improving research opportunities for both students and faculty, attracting a more diverse student and professor body, and allowing the College to become more competitive athletically. Some benefits of the campaign from the past year, such as the newly-established DavisConnects program and impressive donations to the Colby College Museum of Art, have already been realized.

The fund is now moving into its public phase, accompanied by a 10-day launch experience for students, parents, alumni, and potential donors. For the past year, the campaign has been in its so-called “leadership phase,” where members of Colby’s most philanthropic inner circles such as the Alfonds, Davis’s, and Lunders have been approached privately by the College and have given significant donations to build towards the current amount. There have been 32 gifts of over one million dollars already contributed to the campaign. Along with newsworthy donations from well-known families, though, there have also already been about 10,000 other donations of varying monetary amounts, according to Greene.

The Dare Northward Campaign encourages students to find their “true north” and use their time at Colby to discover their true passions.

The campaign launched on Friday, October 20th in Waterville’s Opera House. Over 800 people were in attendance, including trustees, alumni, donors, faculty, students and Waterville residents. Several gifts were announced, including a naming gift for the new arts center, which was given by Michael Gordon ‘66. The event concluded with a performance by The Plain White Tees. The campaign kick off will continue through the weekend, which is also Colby’s Homecoming Weekend, with hundreds of alumni and parents returning to campus.

In fact, the public launch date has been moved up by over a year, according to Lugo, due to the resounding success of the quiet phase. Greene said “It’s very unusual to have a leadership phase of a campaign that’s one year, but we’ve essentially gotten too close to where you’d want to get over a much longer period.” Despite initial success, the working fiscal goal has remained the same.  

If completed, the campaign would beat the largest liberal arts finished fundraiser from Claremont McKenna College by $150 million. The loftiest current goal in progress by another college is set at $650 million by NESCAC rival Williams College. Greene commented on how “incredible” this campaign goal is, especially considering many of the College’s competitors have a “head start” in terms of a culture of philanthropy, successful annual funds, and endowment.

President Greene also announced that the President’s home will now be known as the Osborne House, named in honor of the first African American female graduate of Colby College and a family that is intertwined with the history of Colby.

“Everybody’s either in a campaign or planning a campaign or just finished a campaign, mentioned Greene, alluding to the competition Colby faces from other similar institutions. Lugo, in an interview with The Echo, mentioned that the College is among the top schools in the country in terms of percentage of the community who gives back to the annual fund, a fact that points towards potential success. The set goal was accompanied by research from both internal and external analysts of philanthropic capacity and was approved by the Board of Trustees.

“There’s a pretty rigorous process that you go through,” said Greene of choosing the lofty goal. Hundreds of alumni interviews, surveys, and wealth screenings were conducted by consultants who have worked with hospitals, museums, and other institutions of education. However, Greene added that he believes experts might have set the goal at a smaller number, saying, “no-one would suggest to us that $750 million is the right number for us.”

To him, and to Colby as an institution, the high number is attainable because the timing is perfect for the College. There are enough friends and family in the community passionate about education in central Maine. In addition, Greene believes there is a donor base ready to see Maine thrive, a goal which Colby is increasingly focused on..

While other campaigns from NESCAC schools have launched from New York City or Boston, where many of the wealthiest alumni live, Lugo asserted that there was no better place for the College than Waterville, where Colby plans to revitalize the downtown area. People are “excited about making an impact,” in a place that has seen economic downturns and breaks in its relationship with the College in recent years. “Our fates are linked together,” said Greene.

During the leadership phase of the campaign, Colby was able to have such great success because of its shared values and projected vision with some of its largest donors and alumni. “Finding those synergies” was deeply important for Colby, who let their donors shape the fund and its goals, one of which was making Maine as vibrant a place as it was in the past. Still, despite leaders giving significant amounts, every donor is “giving their heart and soul” in the eyes of Greene, even those giving smaller monetary amounts.  

“Philanthropy is a deeply personal act, and it’s easy to forget that when you see the numbers…I find it incredibly inspiring and interesting and engaging,” mentioned Greene, alluding to the fact that every donation comes from a place of generosity and community excitement. Stories from the campaign have already been told throughout the launch, but most are giving because “they love what all of you [the students] represent…and the importance of educational environments in the world.”  

“It’s very important for me that Colby is not a static place,” added Greene, who continued to stress that he wants the College to be on the map globally, and wants the rest of the world to see Colby as a place of leadership. “We’re in a very privileged” spot, he said of the alumni base and position of the College in relation to others, who are sometimes struggling to attract students, make short-term budgets, or even survive. Colby has the luxury of being able to set long-term goals that are both potentially attainable and ground-breaking.  

“I think we’ll be very successful if this beginning [of this campaign] is any indication,” said Greene in a statement of ecstatic ambition regarding the future of the College and of Waterville.