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Framingham State’s fundraising campaign minimally impacted by COVID-19

By Patrick Brady


Every year, FSU alumni, parents, friends, and current students choose to support the University. Whether it be donating to athletics or supporting student scholarships, there are multiple ways to give back to the community, according to Framingham State’s website.


Annual gifts are used to provide emergency student assistance, pay for computers and

laboratory resources, fund scholarships, and assist faculty development, according to the

website.


Once the pandemic began, the fundraising department had to limit its number of in-person

meetings with donors. Along with implementing safety precautions, Framingham State

employed new tactics to bring in donors.


Eric Gustafson, vice president of Development and Alumni Relations, said FSU raised $2.6

million from private organizations and individuals between July 2020 and July 2021.


“That does not include government grants,” he added.


Gustafson said COVID-19 impacted FSU’s fundraising tactics. In order to “stay in touch” with

people, the Development Office staff have been sending out lots of emails, conducting Zoom meetings, and engaging in numerous phone calls.


“We were doing all of our alumni events and gatherings virtually via Zoom or other platforms,”

he said. “It was a big shift for ... alumni, but it works.”


During the “early days” of COVID-19, the University saw an increase in alumni generosity, he

said. “I think they wanted to make sure that students had the support they needed, especially, I think, they were concerned students were losing jobs.”


He said in recent years, the number of grants received by the University has been on an “upward trajectory.”


The University is in the early phase of a “comprehensive fundraising campaign,” Gustafson

added. “Within the next year, [we hope] to announce the goal and go public.”


Despite changing their strategies and tactics during COVID-19, the campaign itself hasn’t been influenced by the pandemic, he said.


“We’re always trying different alumni engagement events,” he said. “We’re really focused on

rebuilding the program we had in place when COVID hit and shut us down from in-person

attendance.


“We’re really starting to bring back our ... signature events that are a big part of what we do,

like Reunion Weekend, Homecoming Weekend, the Children’s Literature Festival – major events for the University and our alumni and friends of the community,” Gustafson added.


He said donors can contribute to anything on campus they’re “passionate about.” Aside from

contributing to athletic teams, academic departments, and student clubs and organizations,

donors tend to support student scholarships most of all.


“I think many of our alumni were in similar situations to our students today – where it’s always

hard to figure out how you’re going to make that next tuition payment,” he added.


Gustafson said alumni want to help make a “premium state education” more affordable for

students. In addition, alumni are passionate about supporting emergency financial assistance.


He said alumni want to make sure no student is unable to complete school, even if they are struggling with food or housing insecurity.


Whichever department the donor decides to give to, that’s where the money goes, he said.

Gustafson said, “We don’t necessarily have control over the gifts in deciding where they go –

the donors decide.”


Brenna Fehan, a senior child and family studies major, said she isn’t aware of any fundraising

opportunities at the University.


Framingham State should do a better job at promoting ways to get involved, she added.


Olivia Patman, a freshman early childhood education major, said she believes Framingham

State’s grants will benefit the “less fortunate.


“So, anything really helps,” she said, “especially if you didn’t really do your best in high school

for whatever reason – be it mental health or situational.”


Steven Hyland, a freshman environmental studies major, said people who “aren’t as lucky” to

afford college should be able to get money for a good education.


“They deserve to get grants [and] money so they can come here,” he said.


Ryan Glewicz, a sophomore hospitality and tourism management major, said everyone should

have an opportunity to benefit from bnancial aid.


“[Grants are] good for students,” he said. “They give people opportunities without having to

worry about losing a good amount of change in [their] wallet.”


Patricia Bossange, director of grants and sponsored programs, said the University’s main

fundraising goal was to increase the “number of proposals” they sent out the door in order to

improve the “rate of success.


“[It was] a very, very unusual year – which no one anticipated,” she said. “But so many new

crazy opportunities came up because of the pandemic.”


Last year, the University sent out 100 proposals and 50 of them were funded, she said.

“Whoever is judging [the proposal] is judging it by their own merits.”


She said the University has brought in “millions” from the federal government and “other

sources” for their COVID-19 Relief Program. Every public university gets a certain amount of

money based on how big they are.


“The problem is that enrollment is so far down that in the future, it’s going to be a problem,”

Bossange said.


Over the past five years, the University has received numerous big grants, she said. The more

recent ones include the National Endowment for the Humanities grant and half-a-million dollars from the Strengthening Institutions Program.


“We have so many big ones pending,” she said. “We’re constantly doing National Science

Foundation proposals, but we just haven’t scored yet.”


She said the grants department does the research, finds the funders, and tries to send out an

application. “We do like to do a lot of outreach on campus so that people know what we’re

doing and how to go about getting grants.”


Her department’s fundraising tactics have been the same since COVID-19 began, aside from

meeting face-to-face with donors, Bossange said. In addition, they’ve been looking at a lot of

“diversity-related” funding as well.


She said, “We got a grant from the Department of Higher Ed for diversity trainings over the

summer.


“Otherwise, we’re just trying to think of specific initiatives,” she added.


Bossange said she enjoys working at Framingham State because she likes working for students who need the money. Unlike her previous job at Boston College, FSU doesn’t “generate” a ton of money.


She said, “Besides the diversity-related issues that are coming up lately, I think we’re generally plugging away in support of the students.”

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