We began 2020 with great anticipation.

We had big plans to celebrate Washburn & McGoldrick’s 25th anniversary year…. 25 years serving colleges, universities, independent schools, museums and other educationally related organizations. We kicked it off at our annual client conference in New York City in late January, premiering our anniversary video.

The rest of this year didn’t exactly turn out the way we planned, did it? To quote Time Magazine, 2020 hasn’t exactly been a kind year to anyone.

Despite all the challenges, we’ve made it through the year with the help of so many clients, colleagues, friends and family.

We have so many reasons to be grateful - in fact, 25

  1. All our clients

    50 colleges, universities, independent schools and museums with whom we worked this year to help increase engagement and philanthropic support amid the COVID-19 pandemic. In a year full of budget cuts and freezes, we are so grateful to be your counsel, whether you have been with us since the firm’s early years (like University of Maryland, Stonehill College and Syracuse University) or invited us to be your counsel in more recent years (including the College of Wooster and Southwestern University). Special thanks to clients who returned to the fold in in 2020 (like Colorado College, Ohio University, The Sage Colleges, and University of Rhode Island) as well as first-time clients Princeton University, St. John Fisher College and The Bernard and Anne Spitzer School of Architecture at CCNY. Thank you all for your confidence in our work and for your partnership.

  2. The client CEOs who led the way during this extraordinary year to assure their mission of education and research while focusing on the safety of students, faculty and staff. They made tough decisions with wisdom and grace under pressure.
  3. The Boards of Trustees and campaign leaders who recognized the essential role of philanthropy during this year and led by example with their timely gifts to support students – from student emergency funds and financial aid to career assistance. As financial aid recipients ourselves many years ago, we know how essential these gifts are to assuring that their students complete their educational journeys.
  4. All our clients making racial justice, inclusion, and equity a significant funding priority and examining their own histories during this critical reckoning for our nation. Special thanks to Dr. Ruth J. Simmons, President of Prairie View A & M University and Dr. Brenda Allen, President of Lincoln University, who are setting an impressive pace of transformation at the first and second degree granting HBCUs in our country. And congratulations to both universities for the extraordinary gifts Prairie View and Lincoln received this week from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.
  5. Science and research on all our client campuses developing solutions and addressing the pandemic crisis head-on. Vanderbilt University, Syracuse University, NC State University, and University of New Hampshire immediately shifted focus and resources to manufacture PPE, ramp up bio-medical research, and work to address food insecurity on their campuses and in their communities. All our clients, large and small, public and private are deeply committed to the safety of their on-campus and broader community members.
  6. Virginia Museum of Fine Art’s “Cocktails with Curators” for its members and other tremendous creativity at all our client organizations at a time when we could not come together to witness the transformational power of the arts.
  7. Clients Denison University and William & Mary for concluding their successful, record-breaking campaigns this year, and clients St. Catherine University, University of Rhode Island and Illinois Tech for launching the public phases of their campaigns virtually in 2020. And Ohio Wesleyan University – six months to go in campaign, but oh so close to goal as we write this blog.
  8. The alumni, parents, faculty, staff and friends who turned out by the thousands to support our clients’ Days of Giving — and all the advancement teams who worked hard to make these days such successful affirmations of the power of giving in 2020. We’re talking about you, NC State University, for breaking your Day of Giving #Giving Pack record by more than $10 million.
  9. Mount Holyoke College and University of New Hampshire, both of whom trusted us to undertake campaign feasibility studies conducted entirely via video conference and telephone this spring and summer, and Middlebury College, whose feasibility study we conducted in person and concluded pre-pandemic. The donors we interviewed in all three studies renewed our faith in the power of philanthropy and energized us with the passionate involvement they give to the alma maters they love.
  10. The CAOs who spent countless hours each week helping with crisis management while also inspiring donors to give and encouraging staff to adapt to a new way of working.
  11. All the advancement staff members who quickly learned how to “WFH”, to offer compelling and attractive virtual events, and to meet effectively with colleagues, volunteers and donors via video conference.
  12. The 500+ advancement managers, alumni officers and gift officers from 59 institutions who took the time to fill out our first ever quarterly Advancement Moving Forward surveys. Your responses gave us great insights to share about your challenges and your successes in 2020. (Stay tuned for our fourth quarterly survey in January 2021!)
  13. The gift officers from Chicago Booth, University of Rhode Island, Towson University, and Vanguard Educational Services who participated in our first-ever virtual Major Gifts Intensives this summer taught by our ace trainers Anne Berry and Susan Pettyjohn.
  1. The University System of Maryland Foundation, who led the way in partnering with us to offer three new virtual Intensives for advancement staff at their member universities this year. And Catholic University of America, University of Richmond, Denison University, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Providence College, St. Lawrence University, and the Hotchkiss School for bringing our qualification, solicitation, gift planning and board training Intensives to their campuses virtually. We are grateful to provide a cost-effective way to invest in your staff’s professional development.
  2. The founding members of our Principal Gifts Practice Group, who gather monthly and shares ideas and strategies to inspire donors with the potential to make transformative gifts at their institutions.
  3. Arcadia University, Davidson College, Lafayette College, Nazareth College, University of Pittsburgh, Rollins College, Smith College, and Vanderbilt University for asking us to partner with them to strengthen alumni engagement. Led by our colleague, Chris Marshall, our team helped these schools with strategic planning for alumni boards, alumni reunion, alumni engagement measurement and ROI.
  4. Our independent school clients Academy of Holy Names, Brewster Academy, Governor’s Academy, Harvard-Westlake School, Miss Porter’s School, The Hotchkiss School and Westover School who successfully navigated all the unique challenges of middle and high school students on campus in 2020.
  5. Lafayette College, NC State University, Providence College and William & Mary, for understanding the power and influence of women donors and volunteers and making Women in Philanthropy a priority program in 2020.
  6. Our partners and friends in business, all of whom helped us do our work in brand new ways and encouraged us with their creativity and perseverance, especially all our fellow consultants at More Partnership, our accountant Shannon Reichelt at The OnaWay, communicators extraordinaire Pat LePera and Denise Portner at SteegeThomson, our website guru Jim Gile at WSG Consulting, our social media expert Patrick Taylor at 59Media, virtual event expert Sarah Winkler at Level5 Events and AI visionary Adam Martel and his team at Gravyty.
  7. Safe Passage and Philabundance. As passionate as we are about education, we know children and adults can’t focus on learning if they are hungry or abused. We were proud to support these two worthy organizations in our hometowns that address these essential human needs.
  8. Ten months respite from all the unglamorous aspects of travel, from late arrivals, missed connections, traffic jams, and 100 nights a year in hotels (as much as we miss seeing our clients, their beautiful campuses, and their cities and towns!)
  9. Phyllis Huber, who retired in April after 25 years. As a master gardener, she now tends to her flowers and vegetables with the same great care she gave all of us for so many years.
  10. Bill McGoldrick and Sue Washburn for their vision 25 years ago to create a consultancy that has grown into a team of leaders and friends committed to building relationships to advance education and philanthropy. Bill & Sue will become “of counsel” to the firm in January, and their indelible imprint will continue to guide us, their successors, in leading the firm through whatever 2021 and beyond brings our way.
  11. Our amazing team of Wash-McG colleagues: Anne Berry, Chris Biehn, Mike Cooper, Steve Devlin, Eileen Donahue, Tim Lawlor, Chris Marshall, Susan Pettyjohn, Jenna Reynolds, and Carla Willis. This dedicated, creative and smart group met virtually every Tuesday afternoon throughout 2020. Thank goodness we all stayed healthy and physically active all year! We feel even more confident about 2021 with all of them walking (and running!) alongside us.
  12. Our dear families, Rick & Will George, Steve Devlin, Kate Devlin & John DeBruicker, and Matt and Lauren Devlin. The silver lining of being grounded after many years of travel was more time with those we love best and those who encourage and inspire us to do our very best.

So we end 2020 with thanks and praise to all of you for the year that was, and we look forward with gratitude and anticipation to the New Year.

Happy, healthy holidays from Karin & Bonnie