Institutional News

Chronicle of Philanthropy Highlights Bennington's Fundraising

The Chronicle of Philanthropy highlighted Bennington as a college that, in a time of turmoil in higher education, is finding success through a model that blends traditional fundraising with innovative partnerships and initiatives that align with its strengths and mission. 

Photo of Bennington College campus

The college is reimagining its network, looking beyond alumni, said Paige Bartels, senior vice president for strategy, philanthropy, and partnerships. "We are asking how Bennington can engage those with a shared mission."

Learn more about Bennington College's innovative partnerships and initiatives, including:

The World Needs More Bennington Campaign

"Bennington has averaged about $16 million a year in annual giving over the past five years. It started a $150-million campaign in 2014 with the goal of adding $100 million to its endowment. It has raised $92 million since 2015, and the endowment has reached $51 million."

Art for Access

"In 2018 the college began its Art for Access program, which encourages donations of artworks that can be sold to fund scholarships. Many of its graduates are artists or have art collections. The college started the program by auctioning five works from its collection, including one by Frankenthaler. The sale generated more than $3.1 million and prompted gifts of new works of art from longstanding supporters and new donors as well as a significant bequest of an artwork."

The 24 Hour Plays

"Traditional fundraising can be alienating, but the plays are different, [Julie Tucker '89] says. They offer a visceral experience. And working with professionals and amateurs on such a tight timeline is a lot of fun.

Plus, the money raised — $160,000 so far — goes to specific scholarship programs. 'It reconnects you to why you were there to begin with,' she says. 'And it can lead to further financial giving.'"

"Bennington’s focus on the arts in its fundraising pays off"

The Chronicle of Philanthropy

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-Funded Food Insecurity Research

"The college has a history of working with neighboring towns. For example, it worked with residents to address a water-contamination problem and provided tutoring at a local high school. It is involved in a nearby redevelopment project, too. And this spring the college received a $1-million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to work on food-security issues in the area."

Museum Fellows Term

"[The Helen Frankenthaler Foundation] does not just write a check. In addition to its annual $100,000 grant for the program, the executive director, Elizabeth Smith, a former museum curator, teaches a weekly class in the foundation’s conference space. 'We are all trying to give them exposure and knowledge of various aspects of the art world at the undergraduate level,' says. 'It’s a wonderful opportunity.'"

The Lucille Lortel Foundation Fellowships in Theatre

"Last year [Bennington College] won a grant from the Lucille Lortel Foundation for fellowships to support students seeking internships in theater in New York. 'The school approached us," says George Forbes, executive director of the foundation. "They had this interesting idea about creating access and opportunity, something we truly believe in."

[...] Forbes and other staff members meet with the students three times during each term to answer questions and discuss off-Broadway theater. The foundation also gives the students tickets to about a dozen plays, and invites students to dinner with the entire board."

Poetry @ Bennington

"The college also recently received a $4-million gift to support the Poetry at Bennington program, which brings established poets to the campus for short-term residencies that include readings and workshops with students.

'We are lucky,' says Bartels, the senior vice president. 'Our faculty and alumni are enormously influential and successful artists, and that has really attracted different kinds of gifts.'"

Middlebury Language Schools

"Colleges should build ties to their communities [...] They can recruit local leaders to the governing board and pursue initiatives and partnerships that strengthen institutional connections to the community.

Bennington has done just that and gone a step further."