The Colgate Scene
March 2007

Dan Benton's $25 million challenge

As the advance-giving stage of the university's new campaign neared completion, in anticipation of the public announcement this month of "Passion for the Climb," trustee Dan Benton '80 stepped forward with a commitment that would add at least $50 million to the pre-launch campaign gift total.

Benton offered to match leadership gifts of $1 million or more to the campaign, up to a total of $25 million. The entire challenge was met prior to the March 2 campaign kickoff.

While Benton's $25 million gift goes to unrestricted endowment ("I saw it as the single biggest opportunity to make a difference at Colgate"), donors who matched his challenge supported virtually every category addressed in the university's strategic plan, from the Upstate Institute, to the Wellness Initiative, to faculty chairs and funds earmarked for student aid.

Benton generously supports several nonprofit organizations with both his time and money. "Colgate receives the majority of my support," he said, "first because I feel I can make a significant impact, and second because I want to be associated with the institution as it transforms itself under Rebecca Chopp's leadership.

"Most nonprofits grind on exceedingly slowly. Colgate grows every year. The academic standing improves. We've got two phenomenal new buildings under construction on campus right now. There's measurable progress that I can see every time I visit campus or talk with students and faculty."

An earlier challenge from Benton, in 2002, stimulated participation in the annual fund. At that time he pledged to give $1 million if alumni giving to the annual fund reached 52 percent of the alumni body. When alumni met that challenge with time remaining in the fund year, Benton said he would add another $500,000 if the percentage of givers reached 54. Alumni responded again, and the annual fund finished the year with 55 percent participation, among the best in the nation.

"I view the annual fund as very important to Colgate," Benton said recently. "As a result of our endowment position, it's necessary for the school to raise six to seven million dollars each year in unrestricted gifts to support the operating budget for our program. I see the percentage of alumni participation as an endorsement of the direction that Colgate is taking. It's also a way for those of us who've received a Colgate education to give something back."

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