Eastern Mennonite University's development team won a 2019 Educational Fundraising Award from The Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Just 90 universities in the United States were selected. This is the third time since 2013 that EMU has won the award among private comprehensive universities with endowments under $72 million. From left: David Helms, Tim Swartzendruber, Kristina Showalter, Stuart Showalter, Marci Myers, Jasmine Hardesty, Anna Gant, Braydon Hoover, Karen Moshier-Shenk, Jeff Shank, Kirk Shisler, Cindy Smoker, and Lindsay Martin. (Photo by Macson McGuigan)

EMU honored with CASE award for excellence in fundraising

For the third time in recent years, Eastern Mennonite University has earned accolades for its exceptional fundraising program from The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). Only 90 U.S. universities were selected for recognition.

EMU earned its 2019 CASE Educational Fundraising Award in the category of Overall Performance among private comprehensive institutions with endowments under $72 million. Three other finalists were also selected from institutions of the same type and endowment size.  

The university won the same award in 2013 and 2014.

“Your institution has not only demonstrated the highest levels of professionalism and best practice in its fundraising efforts, it has contributed to the betterment of educational advancement worldwide by serving as a model to which others can aspire,” said CASE President and CEO Sue Cunningham in a press release.

An expert panel of volunteer judges selects the winners based on a blind analysis of three years of fundraising data submitted by each institution.

The Overall Performance award specifically values “solid program growth, breadth in the base of support and other indications of a mature, well-maintained program.” Among the criteria considered is patterns of growth in total support, types of contributions, breadth and growth of programming, and total support of the alumni base.

“It’s very gratifying to receive this award as it confirms our advancement team’s commitment to diligent fundraising and alumni engagement,” said Kirk Shisler, vice president for advancement. “Building enduring relationships is the core of what we are about.  We take great pride in  articulating EMU’s compelling mission and the profound impact of our alumni who serve and lead with distinction.”

In the 2017-18 fiscal year, donors helped the university set a new record for total philanthropic support, with over $9.1 million in gifts from individuals and private foundations. This significantly tops the prior record year of 2002, when $7.7 million was raised.

Approximately 18 percent of EMU alumni give back to the university — well above the current rate of 11.1 percent, according to U.S. News and World Report. The statistic, called the Alumni Participation Rate, is widely viewed as a measurement of alumni satisfaction with the quality of the education they received.

In part because of this high rate of alumni donor engagement, EMU was rated a Forbes Best Return on Investment (ROI) University in 2018 and also appeared in the Grateful Grads Index.

The loyalty of alumni donors is just one specific strength that likely impacted EMU’s selection, Shisler said. He also added the launch of LovEMU Giving Day in 2017, young alumni and student support of crowdfunding projects, major gifts to complete the Suter Science Campaign, and a successful and expansive planned giving program.

“During EMU’s Centennial in 2018,  we implemented a bequest campaign that attracted 100 new estate commitments, “said Shisler. “Total membership in our Jubilee Friends Society is now well over 600 members, reflecting a deep commitment to EMU’s future.”

CASE is a nonprofit, international organization serving professionals in the field of educational advancement, including alumni relations, communications, and marketing and development. It includes nearly 3,700 universities, colleges, schools, and related organizations in 82 countries.

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