students standing in a group holding signs that say 'thank you' with George Washington and GW mascot

Philanthropy & Constituent Engagement



GW works to strengthen engagement with our permanent constituency, alumni, while expanding our network of families and friends. Through these connections, the Division of Development and Alumni Relations (DAR) supports the mission and initiatives of GW and provides positive ambassadors for the GW brand around the world.




  • Goal 1: Introduce new university leadership to the alumni, parent and friend communities around the world to bolster GW pride and nurture an ongoing culture of philanthropy and engagement.


  • Goal 2: Develop a fundraising model that balances both the short-term and long-term goals of GW while demonstrating accountability with respect to investment and return.


  • Goal 3: Establish a best-in-class engagement and fundraising operation supported by effective and efficient structures, policies, protocols and processes that best serve the alumni, parent and friend communities.



Initiative Accomplishments


DAR goals are to broaden and deepen the scope of university fundraising and engagement efforts.

Adapting to a New Philanthropic Environment

  • Despite a global pandemic and the accompanying economic and social crises, GW raised more than $100 million in FY20 and is on track for similar success for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021.

Making a GW Education Accessible

Exceptional students come from all walks of life, and philanthropy opens doors for those whose talent and ambition exceed their financial means. Increasing access and meeting student need at the undergraduate level and ensuring we continue to recruit and retain top talent at the graduate level is a top institutional priority.

  • Under President LeBlanc, GW’s three-year average for scholarship and fellowship fundraising is tracking $5 million above the last three years of our prior campaign, Making History.
  • The pandemic accelerated the need for increased student support, and GW leaders are meeting this challenge with a targeted effort for scholarships and fellowships. We have already reached our second-highest fundraising attainment for scholarships and fellowships, an increase of 87% over the previous 3-year average. FY20 was our third-highest year for scholarship and fellowship fundraising.

Envisioning the Future
As our university community celebrates our bicentennial, we are working together to envision our role for our third century and beyond: how will GW address the world’s most challenging problems, seek novel solutions that will change the field and establish GW’s leadership as unique.

  • President LeBlanc, Interim Provost Bracey, deans, unit heads and DAR leaders have launched a bold initiative to identify and articulate innovative, interdisciplinary collaborations that build on the combined unique strengths of multiple schools and groups of faculty across the university to transform both the university and our broader society.

    View more accomplishments here

Our GW community is a vibrant worldwide network of students, faculty, alumni, families and friends who share a deep affinity for GW and a belief in our ability to change the world for the better. A regular program of events—in-person and virtual—strengthens these relationships and offers opportunities to forge new ones. The university is honored to celebrate the many successes of our alumni and donors and seeks opportunities to share these shining examples of the power of a GW education whenever possible.

Celebrating Two Remarkable Centuries
Our Bicentennial Celebration in 2021 offers the GW community an extraordinary opportunity to celebrate two centuries of scholarship and service since its historic founding by an act of Congress in 1821.

  • On February 9, 2021, the GW community came together virtually on Charter Day to celebrate its 200th anniversary and generations of progress, from a humble beginning with 26 students to today’s global university with global impact leading to a greater world. 
  • GW’s newest recognition program, Monumental Alumni, is an integral part of our Bicentennial Celebration. This award raises the profile of our most influential living graduates and is reserved for those at the pinnacle of their profession who are having a profound influence on the world. We announced the inaugural cohort of 72 impressive Monumental Alumni on April 15, 2021 with a dedicated website and feature in a commemorative issue of GW Magazine.

Demonstrating Care for our Community
Of course, this momentous bicentennial year was also marked by massive challenges: the global coronavirus pandemic and its financial and social costs.

  • Our GW Cares Student Assistance Fund raised over $124,000 from almost 600 donors in FY20, and there was an additional $100,000 donor match.
  • The GW Health Emergency COVID-19 Response Fund raised over $165,000 in support of critical needs of GW patients, frontline care providers, staff, residents, and students.

Deepening Alumni Engagement
These bicentennial activities, including a robust program of events and short, original films highlight the GW experience and have enabled us to deepen engagement with our community.

  • Surpassing our goal of 200 Bicentennial Ambassadors early, GW has 230 Bicentennial Ambassador volunteers, who lead the way in helping showcase events with over 225 alumni panelists, including 25 Monumental Alumni participants.
  • After years of research and collaboration, GW unveiled its Alumni Engagement Score in February 2020 as the university’s standard measure of alumni engagement. This score comprises four components: Philanthropic, Volunteer, Experiential, and Communication. DAR is tracking the Alumni Engagement Score in FY21 for depth (deepened engagement of already engaged alumni) and breadth (more alumni engaged).

DAR adds value to the overall GW mission by creating meaningful and impactful alumni experiences and building a robust donor community to support GW teaching and research. To accomplish these twin priorities, DAR uses best industry practices while identifying innovative operational enhancements.

  • Mirroring trends in philanthropy and understanding our alumni and donor bases, GW transitioned from a traditional student calling program to launch our inaugural Giving Day on April 7, 2021. We raised just under $1 million in less than 24 hours, more than three times our goal of $300,000. Funds raised from 2,182 donors, including 31 matches and challenges, support student scholarships, university initiatives and areas of need for schools and units. Our Double the Donation vendor maximized gifts by making employer matching gifts easier for the donor.
  • Donors hailed from 48 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, Canada, the United Kingdom, Poland, Switzerland, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, China, Thailand, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines.
  • Alumni made up 66 percent of donors, while 17 percent were faculty and staff, 11 percent were friends of GW, 7 percent were parents and 5 percent were current students.
  • More than 30 GW community members made matching commitments that will support teaching, learning and living at the university, including a $200,000 match to scholarships from an anonymous donor.
  • In FY20, GW unveiled its own donor advised fund (DAF). The George Washington University Donor Advised Fund, a fund within the BNY Mellon Charitable Gift FundSM, offers a simple and tax-efficient way for individuals to maximize the impact of their charitable giving. Contributions may be eligible for a tax deduction and grow tax-free, leveraging the value of philanthropy. Grants are distributed at the donor’s pace and direction, providing the opportunity to develop a strategic approach that supports their philanthropic vision.
  • GW is in the second year of a multi-year implementation of Blackbaud Award Management. Fully implemented, the tool will provide:
    • More effective administration of donor-funded scholarships and fellowships, increasing utilization of scholarship funding.
    • Greater efficiency in recipient identification for more restrictive scholarships and fellowships, facilitating awards.
    • A consistent methodology for schools and units to advertise available funds, manage application processes, conduct reviews and make final selections.
    • Better methods to inform students about their scholarship donors, collect messages of gratitude and produce stewardship reports in a timely fashion, resulting in happier students and more satisfied and connected donors.

Tracking Fundraising Performance
DAR implemented a fully integrated, cross-operational set of metrics across the division to consistently and accurately track fundraising performance. These metrics are shared with partners across campus to increase transparency.

Keeping Constituent Data Safe
The university instituted data security measures, including use of a lockbox system, following industry best practices around payment security and continuously monitored systems and improved business processes for gift processing.

Initiative Sponsor

Vice President of Alumni & Development Donna Arbide

"Fundraising is a team sport, and I am profoundly grateful for the privilege of partnering with the entire GW community to support our shared vision to make the world a better place. When private philanthropy partners with our renowned thought leaders, anything is possible. As we enter our third century, GW’s passionate alumni, families and friends give generously of their time, talent and financial support and dedicated faculty, staff and academic leaders inspire us daily. This winning combination will provide the resources to power positive transformational change at GW and beyond."

Donna ArbideVice President for Development and Alumni Relations

Get in Touch

If you have a story of progress or suggestion related to this initiative, please submit it below. Your feedback is shared directly with the team charged with managing this initiative's progress. We look forward to hearing from you. 


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