Our Sustainable Future: Recalibrating the Priorities Campaign

In April 2018, the board approved a plan, tentatively titled the Priorities Campaign. Less a traditional “campaign” than a comprehensive survey of urgent needs to compel the College beyond the phases of rescue and reset, it focused on four areas: presidential scholarships, academic innovation, stewardship of the natural and built environment, and student life. The projected total was $128 million, although by the fall of 2020 it crept up to $131 million.

Pending the discussion and approval of the board of this plan, we will move to recalibrate the Priorities Campaign as approved in 2018 and revised in 2020. It is worth noting, however, that there is a large and essential congruence between the Priorities Campaign and the requirements of this plan. This is because the strategic vision of the College has remained steady, even as the vocabularies of our aspiration have changed.

We anticipate that as the result of this plan, the following recalibration is likely to take place. First, the non-capital portion of the “academic innovation” pillar of the Priorities Campaign will be funded through enrollment-related revenue increases. Other areas, like Presidential Scholarships and the Women’s Leadership Core, will remain in the Campaign. Second, the capital portion will now include renovation of buildings like Gray and Harley (on top of Guion, Babcock, Pannell and Benedict). It will also include the modernization of the energy systems as well as infrastructural upgrades to the athletic and co-curricular facilities (agriculture, turf field, riding center, residential hall upgrades). Third, there will be greater focus on building the endowment for the long-term support of the Presidential Scholarships, the Women’s Leadership Core and the stewardship in perpetuity of our magnificent buildings and grounds.

As we look forward to the new phase of the Priorities Campaign that will follow on the heels of this plan, it is worth remembering that in reality, the College has been in a campaign mode since the summer of 2015, raising a total of nearly $100 million in annual funds and Priorities Campaign combined. (The funds raised for the latter is approximately $17 million to date.) This fact points to the possibility that a fundraising campaign at Sweet Briar is essentially a different beast than those at other liberal arts colleges. We have been exceptionally successful in communicating the strategic vision and needs of the College to our base of alumnae and friends and keeping them invested in Sweet Briar’s future. At this point, we believe that a shift from an annual funds focus to capital projects focus is a natural one for which much of the important preparatory work has been done.