Northland College raises $1M on its last-ditch $12M goal

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Dive Brief:

  • Northland College has raised more than $1 million from over 550 donors as it tries to stave off closure. That figure does not include “funds raised by other appeals,” according to a Monday update from the board of trustees.
  • The Wisconsin-based college in March announced a target of $12 million in new donor funds to keep it afloat. Early last week, the college’s trustees said they had “a long way to go” toward the critical fundraising goal.
  • The board plans to update stakeholders Thursday on the status of its efforts. Along with fundraising, the board has met with other institutions about potential partnership opportunities. It has also vetted other financing options, including loans and government support at the state and federal level.

Dive Insight:

Northland set a spring deadline for the do-or-die fundraising blitz so current and future students could make plans for the year. Officials have made clear that the institution will likely close if it can’t hit the $12 million target.

Their determination came after a financial review, which concluded in February, showed that the college didn’t have the funds to continue operating.

According to Northland’s most recent tax forms, it ran a $3.2 million deficit in fiscal 2021. Revenue also fell nearly $700,000 short of its expenses in the year prior.

“The reality is that Northland has been struggling for a long time to find a sustainable solution despite aggressively exploring options,” the college said on a web page devoted to the fundraising push. “Northland is not alone in this struggle. Colleges and universities — especially private institutions — across the country are facing immense financial strain.”

Funds raised toward its $12 million target would support operations through the next academic year while Northland tries to reinvent its model to make it financially sustainable, the trustees said in their March announcement.

The board called this a “critical week” in its Monday announcement, as the April 3 deadline — which ends at midnight that day looms.

“We also recognize the unease and uncertainty many are experiencing right now,” the trustees said.

They also pointed to the outpouring of support and ideas from faculty, students and alumni to help the college. Trustees planned to review those proposals at a Monday meeting. The board also said it was reviewing proposals regarding enrollment caps, roles for its institutes and centers, and different uses of campus facilities, such as housing.

Founded in 1892 by members of the United Church of Christ, the college today markets its environmental and sustainability programming. It’s accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Northland isn’t the first college to try to fundraise its way out of a financial crisis. While difficult, it has been done.

Hampshire College in Massachusetts, for instance, set a $60 million donation goal while it teetered on the brink of closure. It survived, transforming its programs and approach to higher education in the process.

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