The Power of One - Largest-ever gift to School of Materials Engineering inspires others

It all started with an anonymous gift.

Recently, a School of Materials Engineering alumnus made a substantial gift to the program but chose to do so anonymously, requesting no fanfare. In an effort to spur further support for the school, a portion of the funds was used to start a matching-gift program with the goal of encouraging other donors to create new endowments in support of materials engineering students.

The matching-gift program is focused on generating endowments — gifts of $25,000 or more that serve a specified purpose in perpetuity — providing undergraduate scholarship support and study-abroad financial assistance. Because of the matching-gift program, donors who might otherwise have felt powerless to help because they were unable to commit $25,000 can now donate half that amount and see the fruits of their generosity harvested through an endowment they get to name and define as study abroad or scholarship support. 

“The School of Materials Engineering did not have a history of alumni supporting endowments,” said Ryan Elias, the school’s former director of development, who recently was named director of corporate relations for the College of Science. “After seeing the benefits of recent matching-gift programs led by the University, it made sense to utilize this unrestricted gift to create a program that would address the school’s long-term strategic goals. The initial response to this opportunity has been extraordinary.” 

Elias gave the example of a donor who had given $100 annually for the past 15 years and then, upon finding out about the program, increased his donation to $3,000 annually. The program enables donors to get the matching benefit by pledging to pay $12,500 over five years. It is also possible for donors to pool gifts or take advantage of corporate matching-gift opportunities to reach the $12,500 threshold. 

“Most schools that receive large donations utilize that gift for an immediate need, but it was important for the School of Materials Engineering to maximize that gift’s impact,” Elias said. “One of the school’s strategic goals is to diversify the endowment portfolio, particularly in the area of student support. This matching program has allowed us to double the annual income received for student support. It has proven to be a win-win for both the donors and the students who will one day benefit from their generosity.”