Since its inception in 2007 the USAFA Endowment has remained steadfast in its efforts to be the preeminent fundraising arm of the Academy. The Endowment is strongly rooted in the belief that any donor can make a meaningful difference at the Academy. Though simple in articulation, this belief has had a profound impact on the physical enterprise of the Academy and has also enriched the lives of the thousands of cadets who have walked the Terrazzo on their journey to become members of the Long Blue Line. Providing private funds in support of the Air Force Academy’s mis sion: To build leaders of character for the Air Force and our nation, is the Endowment’s reason for existence. The notion of being a partner with the Air Force Academy defines everything that the Endowment has done and continues to do.
This summer, the Endowment reached a fundraising milestone of over $100 million in gifts from thousands of graduates, parents, and friends of the Academy. Donors supported investments in academic programs, athletics, character and leadership, heritage initiatives, and other areas with the greatest need at the Academy. The Endowment has seen a surge in graduate donors, reporting increased participation throughout the years. One of the first major gifts came from Bart Holaday ’65, former USAFA Endowment chairman of the board, and his late wife Lynn, who made a $5 million gift to the Holaday Athletic Center. To date, this gift remains the largest one donated from a graduate to the Academy. Additionally, 2014 and 2015 have boasted record numbers in giving with significant growth of major gifts. The most substantial donations were received from the McDonnell family who contributed $5 million to the Center for Character and Leadership Development, a $6 million gift from a local foundation in support of the Profession of Arms, the largest private gift in the Academy’s history, and a $5 million gift from an anonymous donor to the renovations for Falcon Stadium. All of these generous donations have helped to pave the pathway towards our $100 million milestone.
Another contributing factor to the Endowment being able to raise over $100 million is the fact that it boasts a 12 percent average for fundraising costs. This means that for every dollar spent on fundraising last year, the USAFA Endowment returned over eight times that amount in new gifts and commitments. Of note, the Endowment’s average cost of fundraising is well below the national average of 20-28 percent.
The USAFA Endowment operates a unique donor-centric funding model that assesses no fees of any kind on restricted gifts, either initially or annually. One hundred percent of restricted gifts go to the charitable purpose intended. This has been our practice since the Endowment was founded.
“Our no fees and no deductions model gives donors the confidence that their gifts will have the maximum impact,” said Jennifer Bateman, Vice President of the USAFA Endowment. “We hope that this feature will continue to be a significant attraction for donors who desire to make a charitable gift to the Academy.”
This is just one founding principle that the Endowment has found to be attractive to donors when making a contribution to the Academy. The Endowment’s core principles are as follows:
All restricted donations are used exclusively for their intended charitable purpose. No fees or other deductions are subtracted by the Endowment.
Our Board is stable and independent. The structure of the USAFA Endowment is such that donors can have confidence that their gifts will be stewarded carefully and consistently over time by other donors.
We are committed to a positive and supportive approach. The singular role of the USAFA Endowment is to provide financial support for vital Academy programs. We will not make any public pronouncements on the policy decisions of the Academy or the Air Force.
We are fully transparent. Our operations have complete audit and donor visibility annually. Annual reports are provided to each donor—both for the USAFA Endowment as a whole, and for each donor’s individual gift.
“I am beyond excited that the Endowment has been able to deliver on its promise to the Academy of providing transformative support,” said Endowment President and CEO General (Ret.) Steve Lorenz ’73. “As a graduate who feels personally indebted to the Academy, I feel that this milestone in some way serves as a ‘Thank You’ to the Academy, and I am forever grateful to the graduates, parents, and organizations who care as deeply as I do about this institution and have shown such tremendous support. Having raised $100 million in support of the Academy is a tremendous feat, especially for an organization of the Endowment’s size. This achievement is truly a team effort, from the guidance of our Board of Directors to the expertiseof our staff of eighteen.
Board Director David Yost echoed General Lorenz’s sentiment: “The Endowment owes its success to our senior leadership, dedicated staff, and the generous graduates, parents, and organizations who have supported the Academy over the years.”
The $100 million milestone marks a new era of philanthropy. During the difficult years of 2008 and 2009, loyal donors demonstrated their commitment to the Academy by helping the Endowment maintain peak fundraising dollars.
Since the Academy’s first days, the generosity of donors has literally transformed its landscape. There is a long history of donors and the Air Force working together for the betterment of the Academy.
“This is a significant moment for the Endowment and the Academy,” said Paul Madera ’78, Chairman of the Board of Directors. “We have the most generous and dedicated friends and benefactors who, through their spirit and action, have helped support the next generations of cadets and soon-to-be officers in receiving the finest training in character, leadership, athletics, and academics. Their belief in the Endowment and the work we do is unsurpassed. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts.”
As the USAFA Endowment continues to strive for new milestones, we understand that doing so would never be possible without the support of our donors. Private funding enables the Endowment, and Academy as a whole, to embellish the basic resources of federal funding; all for the purpose of providing our cadets with a stellar education. It is through the assistance of our donors that the Endowment has the ability to consistently improve on the margin of excellence. Thank you for all you do to make the Academy’s growth possible!