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A new comprehensive fundraising campaign for St. Mary’s College of Maryland aims to bring in millions during the next half a decade to help support students, especially those with financial need.

The new campaign is still in its “silent phase,” during which staff is assessing the strategies and putting out feelers to traditional donors. It started last summer and is likely to be a six-year endeavour with a working goal of raising $30 million, said Maureen Silva, vice president for advancement at the college.

About $2 million in reach-back gifts, which are donations given before the official start of the campaign, have gotten it off to a good start, Silva said.

Several other gifts have come in since the summer, including from college trustee Cindy Broyles, who chairs the board’s development committee.

“I gave over the years in various capacities,” including to establish a need-based scholarship, she said. Broyles, a 1979 alumna, said she has always had a strong desire to give back to her alma mater, but after talking to two students a few years ago who were only able to stay at St. Mary’s College because of an emergency scholarship, Broyles knew where she wanted her money to go.

She gave $200,000 this year as part of the comprehensive fundraising campaign for need-based scholarships to students from low-income families.

The college’s last comprehensive fundraising campaign focused on raising money for facilities, according to Silva, who joined the college in 2010. That campaign brought in about $40 million, she said.

During the 1990s and early 2000s St. Mary’s College grew its student enrollment from about 1,200 to 2,000 and increased residential facilities as well as academic space.

Now, under the direction of President Joseph Urgo, the college is planning to focus on taking care of those students’ needs by boosting endowments, increasing financial aid and providing more academic support.

The college’s fundraising — including all gifts and some grants — goes through its foundation, which has its own board of directors separate from the board of trustees that governs the college’s finances, academics and administrative affairs.

The foundation’s sole purpose is to raise money and manage philanthropic resources for the college, Silva said.

The investments made by donors “provide a level of excellence to the college that’s over and above the resources we get from other sources,” Silva said.

Silva’s dual role as vice president for the college and executive director of the foundation allow her to oversee how the money is handled.

Donors can arrange that the money they donate goes toward a specific cause, or even a specific type of student, such as a biology or music major. Other money can be earmarked for a specific academic program, faculty, a building or equipment.

Gifts of $10,000 or more are usually designated, Silva said. She or other fundraising officers will talk to donors to help explain the college’s needs and the donor’s motivation for giving.

“Our goal is to understand what the donor’s interests are,” she said.

Gifts that do not have specific usages attached usually will go into the St. Mary’s fund, which is an unrestricted account that allows the college president to decide what critical needs, whether they be scholarships or other initiatives, receive gifted money.

Some donations are made through bequests written into wills. While all of those do not pan out, and the time frame of the donation is obviously not known, bequests do make up a valuable asset to the college’s fundraising, Silva said.

Kathryn Glockner set up a scholarship in her name through an initial $25,000 donation. She gives several thousand a year to keep it replenished, and also recently bequeathed $300,000 through her will to keep the scholarship going after she dies.

She attended St. Mary’s College for a year after graduating from Great Mills High School, but went on to earn her college degree from the University of Maryland. Later in life she took some English courses “for fun” and one of her stepsons graduated from St. Mary’s with a math degree.

Glockner, who worked at Patuxent River Naval Air Station in several high-profile roles, including most recently as the STEM education and outreach coordinator, said that the college offers flexibility to give more or less as a person’s financial situations change.

She said she has corresponded with the first recipient of her scholarship, and hopes to meet him and perhaps sit in a science class with him next semester.

The campaign is meant to spur on donations that might not otherwise come in to the college, which gets annual philanthropic donations each year.

Those donations have varied over the last decade, but usually total about $2 million or $3 million. The highest amount in the last decade came in 2006 when $3.7 million, while the lowest brought in was in 2010, when just $1.6 million came in, based on college documents.

The college’s endowments, like most investments in the country, took a hit during the recession.

St. Mary’s College’s endowments declined by 10 percent two years in a row, Silva said, less than many other investments. However, the college’s has taken a longer time to come back up to speed, she said.

The board of directors for the foundation recently approved having J.P. Morgan run its endowment, giving the college access to better investments.

“They created an environment where we can really focus the endowment” on scholarships and academic support, Silva said.

Like any large fundraising effort, some money has to be spent to make money.

The foundation hosts events that help raise money for scholarships or other programs, such as in December when the college held a benefit concert at the Baltimore School for the Arts. Proceeds from the concert went toward the college’s Baltimore City Scholarship Initiative, a now-$2 million endowment created to assist in the recruitment and retention of talented students from Baltimore.

Costs for salaries, travel and to host events related to fundraising would ideally take up 20 cents or less for every dollar raised. For a smaller college like St. Mary’s, Silva said the goal is between 20 and 30 cents; currently the organization runs at more than 30 cents per dollar.

“We’re higher than we want to be,”?she said.

The foundation assists in setting up alumni chapters at big cities around the country where there are known concentrations of St. Mary’s graduates.

They also reach out to the college’s trustees, many of whom are primary donors to the school. After a push a couple years ago, all of the trustees now donate money to the college every year, she said.

The fundraising at the college ran into a snafu this past summer after a longtime admissions officer was dismissed and alumni and others organized a petition to have him reinstated. Some alumni said they would stop giving to the college.

Silva said that her office did receive calls, and that by listening to alumnis’ concerns, some of the damage can be mitigated.

“A lot of times that’s all they need. Once they get that out, the bottom line is, they care about St. Mary’s College of Maryland,” she said. “The institution is bigger than any one incident.”

Trustee Broyles said she believes in the college president’s push for more need-based scholarships, and said she hopes people will find it in their heart to support the education of young adults who can’t afford St. Mary’s College.

“We hope it becomes a charity of choice” for others, Broyles said.