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The Drake Fund breaks record

The annual fund surpasses $3 million this year, thanks to the generosity of donors, coupled with matching efforts from the Drake University Board of Trustees

For most fundraisers, the end of the fiscal year is nerve-racking: the frenzy of last-minute fundraising, which includes finalizing numbers and closing the books, is overshadowed by the looming question, “Will we reach our goal?”

But this year, Pam Pepper, Drake University director of development operations and annual fund programs, showed fewer signs of stress. In fact, during the weeks leading up to Drake’s fiscal year end on May 31, she exuded a conspicuously high level of confidence and optimism.

Pam Pepper

“In December, we had the second-best fundraising month in Drake’s history,” Pepper says. “Since then, thanks to the generosity of thousands of alumni, parents and friends, we’ve been on track for a record-breaking year.”

The Drake Fund, for which Pepper leads the fundraising efforts, pays for the immediate needs of the University — things like electric bills, library books, scholarships and faculty salaries.  Pepper likens The Drake Fund to providing a family with the necessities of living.

“As a family, you need bread and toothpaste. It’s not sexy or exciting, but you need it,” she says.

What is exciting is the fund’s final number: $3,275,763, which sets a new record.

Leaders in philanthropy

“I can’t pinpoint one thing that was responsible for our success; it was a combination of things… but I do believe distinctlyDrake and the board of trustees challenge played a big part,” Pepper says.

distinctlyDrake, launched on October 1, 2010, is the plan for realizing the vision for the future of the University — to be, and be recognized as, one of the very best institutions of higher education in the United States.

“This is a very exciting time at Drake,” she says. “And I think people want to be a part of it. When people give to The Drake Fund, they have an immediate impact on the lives of students.”

In the last several months, thousands of alumni and friends have supported distinctlyDrake, including the University’s board of trustees, whose members agreed to match new and increased gifts to The Drake Fund, up to a total of $500,000.

“It was the appropriate thing to do,” says Don Fletcher, chairman of the Drake University Board of Trustees. “As a governing board we believe very strongly in distinctlyDrake. We wanted to demonstrate our commitment in a tangible way — and motivate others to do the same.”

Another factor influencing The Drake Fund is the national trend of increased giving to institutions of higher education. This increase, according to the Bloomberg News website, follows a two-year slump in which colleges and universities saw an average decline of 12 percent in philanthropic gifts for 2009.

But not The Drake Fund — even in turbulent times, the fund hovered around its $3 million goal. Pepper says this wouldn’t be possible without the annual giving of loyal supporters, who range in age from 22 to 92 and give anywhere from $1 to $50,000.

“I wish people could understand that they don’t need a lot of money to make a difference, just a passion for something they believe in,” says Pepper.

It’s obvious that Pepper’s passion is The Drake Fund. Rather than basking in this year’s success, Pepper and her team are already at work on next year’s strategy.

According to Pepper, the fund is a continual effort as “The Drake Fund impacts every student, every day.”

— Sherry Speikers, GR’93