How An Anonymous Gift Spurred a Big Athletics Gift To a College

We often note that alumni who "make the first move" with their giving can inspire other alumni to follow suit. I wrote about an interesting case at USF in which an alumni couple, Leslie and Pam Muma, gave big to the business school, which later inspired another alum with a business background to donate to the school as well. These particular gifts were made during the first phase of USF's $1 billion capital campaign, which Leslie Muma chaired. The Mumas backed up their leadership with money, and at least one other alum took notice.

Related: How One Alums' Big Pledge Influenced Another Alum to Give Big: A Case Study

The forces at work in these USF gifts came to mind when I heard about a recent gift to College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts. Holy Cross alumnus John Luth and his wife Joanne recently gave $32.5 million to expand and renovate its athletics center, as well as to convert its field house into a recreation center.

Luth is the founder, CEO and chairman of Seabury Group, a global advisory and investment company.

The College of the Holy Cross, like USF, is in the midst of a campaign—the $400 million “Become More” effort. So far, the college has secured $52 million in gifts and pledges toward the estimated $87 million cost to renovate the Hart Center. 

Luth, in addition to being an alum of the College of the Holy Cross, served as a trustee from 2005 to 2013, was a member of the regional campaign committee of the school's previous comprehensive campaign, and co-chaired the reunion gift effort for the Class of 1974. So Luth has definitely been heavily involved with his alma mater, and a gift like this, especially in the midst of a campaign, isn't surprising.

But there's another element to the Luths' gift: If fundraising totals for the Hart Center reach $60 million by September, an anonymous donor, who already gave the school $15 million, will give an additional $5 million to the school. Now, there's a nice carrot to lure in more funders. 

We often note that fundraising challenges can help catalyze and activate philanthropy, but seeing this play out in the Luths' gift to the College of the Holy Cross is useful. If you have any doubt, here's Luth, in his own words: "While we’ve been thinking about our commitment for some time, we were motivated to respond to the fundraising challenge presented to the college."