In record giving year, Brown donors support teaching, research, financial aid, strategic priorities

More than 31,000 generous donors contributed $420.6 million to Brown during its Fiscal Year 2019, investing in student success, high-impact scholarship, campus life and many other University initiatives.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Providing critical support for student financial aid, faculty research, new teaching initiatives and other university priorities, more than 31,000 generous donors made gifts and commitments to Brown University totaling $420.6 million during its Fiscal Year 2019, which ended on June 30.

The fundraising mark surpassed the University’s overall fiscal year giving record, achieved in 2017-18, by more than $31 million. Donors gave more than $45.8 million, also a new record, in support of the Annual Fund, which provides unrestricted financial support that benefits nearly all aspects of University life, from academic excellence to student experiences.

This year’s giving builds on the momentum of BrownTogether, the University’s most ambitious comprehensive fundraising campaign in history, which last winter surpassed the $2 billion milestone. With an end date of 2022 established, Brown has raised $2.2 billion toward the campaign’s $3-billion goal as of June 30.

Senior Vice President for Advancement Sergio Gonzalez said the tremendous show of support from members of the extended Brown community is advancing University priorities in significant ways — bringing top scholars and educators to campus, ensuring that outstanding students from every background can access a Brown education, and advancing a community where even more life-changing research and discovery can happen. 

“The generosity of our alumni, parents and friends has been truly remarkable this year,” Gonzalez said. “While we had some transformational gifts, and we are so grateful for those, we saw many donors at various levels step up and invest in Brown's students and faculty, and in the University's future. That made the difference and took BrownTogether to the next level, surpassing the $2 billion mark and eclipsing last year’s record-breaking total.”

A record number of gifts of $25 million or more contributed to FY19 totals. Among those, a $31.6 million gift from Diana Nelson and Brown alumnus John Atwater is supporting essential priorities including a central convening space in the under-construction Performing Arts Center, and undergraduate financial aid. And a $25 million gift from investor and Class of 1992 graduate Orlando Bravo is funding the creation of an economics research center at Brown, strengthening what is already a globally recognized, nationally ranked department.

Gonzalez noted that under the leadership of BrownTogether’s campaign co-chairs — alumni Theresia Gouw, Ralph Rosenberg and Joan Wernig Sorensen — donors also contributed a record 18 gifts in the $5 million to $25 million range. Those have supported priorities such as a new center and residence hall to integrate health and wellness programs on campus, and a championship-level lacrosse and soccer center.

The generosity of Brown’s donors also enabled the University to establish 12 new endowed professorships in FY19, giving Brown the means to attract and retain the best teachers and scholars. Since BrownTogether’s launch, 74 new endowed chairs have been raised, many of which are now filled with talented faculty members who are conducting research and enhancing the academic experience for students.

Other gifts supported The Brown Promise, which beginning in fall 2018 removed loans from all undergraduate financial aid packages awarded by the University and replaced them with scholarships. Dean of Financial Aid Jim Tilton said that in its first year, the initiative benefitted 1,452 students, many from moderate-income families who would previously have had loans included in aid packages.

The Brown Promise made Brown one of just 18 colleges and universities in the U.S. that are need-blind in admissions decisions, meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need and include no loans in initial aid packages, Tilton added. The positive impact has been immediate, both on the campus as a whole and for the individuals families who benefit.

"For these students and their families, loans and borrowing are an option instead of a requirement,” Tilton said. “The joy for me is when parents realize that their son or daughter could graduate from Brown debt-free or with limited debt.”

The Brown Annual Fund — which supports immediate investments in strategic areas of University life ranging from financial aid to research to career preparation — continues to be a focal point for donors who contribute in amounts from $1 to $1 million. A total of 31,193 donors gave to the Annual Fund.

Class of 1984 alumna Paula McNamara, who completed her service as Annual Fund co-chair coinciding with the end of the fundraising year (as did fellow Brown graduates John Atwater and John Ehrenkranz), said the support from such a significant number of donors is a testament to the strength of the Brown community.

“The University is fortunate to have alumni, parents and friends who value the impact annual giving has every day on our students, providing funding for financial aid, internships and many other aspects that make a Brown education so special,” McNamara said. “As co-chairs, it’s so gratifying and inspiring to see the progress we've made and the enthusiastic response from our community that has brought more Annual Fund donors into the fold and helped us achieve impressive growth in the past few years.”

Other successful Annual Fund initiatives included Giving Tuesday in November 2018, when 4,592 donors contributed $3 million, making it one of the biggest annual giving days at Brown to date. And five months later, in April 2019, Brunonians Pay It Forward Day raised $2.6 million in a single day from 3,512 donors.

Significant support came also from Brown alumni who celebrated class reunions during the year. In total, Annual Fund giving by donors from reunion classes totaled $9.5 million.

Members of the Class of 1984, who celebrated their 35th reunion in 2018-19, topped all reunion classes with $2.7 million raised in total. The class has also had the highest rate of participation on Giving Tuesday and Brunonians Pay It Forward Day for five consecutive years.