It was a day of celebration February 3 when IUP’s Imagine Unlimited comprehensive fundraising campaign closed with $81.36 million in donations. Imagine Unlimited raised more than $6 million beyond its $75-million goal—and finished six months ahead of schedule.

While there have been many milestones in this campaign—including the April 2018 announcement of increasing the goal from $40 million to $75 million—this truly has been both a marathon and a sprint, with much of the momentum set by our donors and our volunteers.

Imagine Unlimited includes many firsts and greatests:

  • It exceeded all previous campaign totals by $60 million (the $14-million Gateways to Opportunity campaign for IUP, which concluded in 2006, raised $21.7 million).
  • It is the largest comprehensive campaign in Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education.
  • It includes the university’s largest one-time gifts:
    • $23 million from alumni John and Char Kopchick
    • $7 million from alumni Tim and Deb Cejka
  • A 36 percent increase in the university and Foundation for IUP endowment, from $60 million to $81.79 million.

While the campaign garnered 11 million- and multimillion-dollar gifts, support for the campaign has been broad-based. We’ve seen both more donors and larger gifts:

  • 22,000 gifts of $25,000 or less
  • An increase in gift amounts of 84.5 percent (2015 to 2020)
  • An increase in student giving of 171 percent (2015 to 2020)

Providing Life-Changing Opportunities for Donors and Students

Campaign donors have said they are honored to be part of Imagine Unlimited—and proud to help to change the lives of our students now and for the future. The campaign reflects a true community effort, with more than 300 active volunteers at IUP and throughout the country.

Work has been ongoing for the campaign since 2014–15, with important research, planning, and other activities included in the quiet phase of a campaign. But the groundwork for the campaign’s success had been laid over more than 140 years: IUP has changed the lives of its graduates for the better and has created incredible passion for and dedication to this university.

Employees throughout campus have played a major leadership role—they have made their own donations to illustrate their commitment to and belief in our students and the campaign.

More than 7,700 students have received direct support through scholarships that are part of the campaign (many of which are renewable), and thousands more will be impacted in the future. Endowed scholarships—scholarships established with gifts of $25,000 or more to allow for long-term scholarship support for qualified students—have increased by more than 17 percent over the past three and a half years, from 433 to 508. Current-use scholarships also increased by 7 percent, with 17 new immediate-use scholarships established over the past three and a half years.

The theme of the campaign—Imagine Unlimited—is not just something we took from our own thinking: it is what we heard from donors. The donors truly set the tone for this campaign.

Our alumni, our friends, our employees—they truly believe in IUP. They have high aspirations for IUP and for our students, and they want to be part of helping IUP and its graduates to change the future.

Student-Centered Campaign Priorities

The Imagine Unlimited campaign priorities reflect the university’s student-centered focus:

  • The Future of Science and Mathematics—total raised: $38,018,533
  • Academic Excellence and Innovation/Student Success and Engagement: preparing students for leadership with new and innovative programming and experiences; providing scholarships and research opportunities—total raised: $36,995,226.
  • Leadership through Athletics Competition—total raised: $6,346,181

The Student Assistance Fund (established as the Emergency Relief Fund) is one of the immediate-use funds for students—in this case, for students negatively impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.

As of February 8, more than 460 students have received support from the $440,000 donated by more than 3,000 alumni, friends, employees, and students. This support helps to pay for living expenses or the extras—like nursing kits—so that students can continue their studies through the pandemic.

The Rally to the Finish Line

Momentum for Imagine Unlimited really picked up when IUP announced the $75-million goal and the $23-million gift from Char and John Kopchick in April 2018.

Then, as 2020 neared its end, University Advancement and Imagine Unlimited campaign volunteers, knowing that the campaign was almost at its $75-million goal, challenged themselves to meet the goal by the end of the calendar year.

The rally was a great success: gifts totaling $5,715,000 before December 31 met the goal and the rally timeline. Gifts came from alumni from the 1960s to the 2010s, from current and former trustees, and from current and former employees, who continue to keep the faith and believe in the university, through good times and challenging times.

The student-centered focus really resonated with donors—especially alumni who struggled financially while they were students here and who know how IUP changed their lives. They want to make it better for students today and in the future. It became a familiar refrain from donors: we want to pay it forward.

It’s a circle of IUP pride and love: our faculty and staff inspire our students, and then our graduates inspire the next IUP generation.

Research and Other Important Initiatives

The campaign complements and supports the university’s strategic plan focus of being a student-centered university. Scholarships are a big part of that. But another significant aspect of our student-centered focus is to provide those “extras” that will set up our graduates for success—experiences of all types that prepare them for career and personal success—that they could not afford on their own.

For example, part of the gift from the Kopchicks funds a research internship at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Other donations will fund specialized equipment and other extras in Kopchick Hall.

Tim and Deb Cejka’s funding for diversity and inclusion—a gift of $350,000—will provide opportunity for programming, research and training, academic and social student support, and scholarships. This fund will support, among other initiatives, a Diversity and Inclusion panel on March 17 that will feature alumni at the top of their fields.

While this campaign will continue to position IUP for the future and fund important initiatives that our students need and deserve, it’s not about budget relief. As Vice President Fitzsimons and I shared last week, we have to create a financially sustainable university and balance our budget.

Donors know that the university is facing challenging times, but they believe in IUP and its ability to move forward. This $81.36-million campaign is proof of their confidence in us.

What’s Next?

Standing still is not part of who and what IUP is. For now, we are taking some time to celebrate and to thank our donors and volunteers.

We are also thinking about next steps: looking at the strategic plan and IUP NextGen, considering how a campaign can complement those plans, and actively planning for our 150th anniversary, when we publicly launch our next campaign.