Yale Daily News

The Yale Divinity School received an almost 31 percent increase in donor gifts in the previous fiscal year, a sign of support amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The school created 12 endowed scholarships funds, according to a September press release. In addition, there was a significant increase in donations to the school’s Annual Fund, which supports student financial aid. Barbara Sabia, senior director of alumni engagement and development, said the YDS worked especially hard to generate donor engagement, and their efforts were notably successful.

“We were delighted with the increase,” Sabia said. “We worked particularly hard over the past year reengaging our donors after so much uncertainty and loss brought on by pandemic.”

According to Sabia, the top fundraising priority is supporting student financial aid.

More than 90 percent of YDS students receive some form of financial aid. Financial aid support is made up of donations to the Annual Fund and endowment money that the school raises specifically for scholarships.

“This donor support is helping us free students to pursue their callings and careers without having to downsize their aspirations because of debt and other financial constraints,” Sterling told YDS News. “This is a major way that YDS can better fulfill our longstanding mission: by equipping and empowering students to serve and lead the communities where they find themselves after YDS.”

Two classes in particular displayed exceptional donor engagement –– the classes of 1961 and 1970.

Rev. Ronald Evans DIV ’70, who said he felt particularly inclined to help YDS given that he received financial aid while a student himself, helped lead fundraising efforts this past year for the class of 1970. He believes that two factors rallied the class in particular.

Evans pointed to the 1970 May Day protest on the New Haven Green — an event that almost closed the University down — and the ongoing Vietnam War as two events that made the class of 1970 one of “greater cohesion.”

“Those of us who have the opportunity to get the benefits of the education at the University and the Divinity School are grateful because other people provided so much of that, not just in terms of dollars and cents tuition,” Evans said. “Now it’s our responsibility to make sure that students who are there now are supported in a time when it’s ever so much more expensive, and to make sure that students in the future will as well.”

Sabia added that the pandemic highlighted the importance of using the YDS curriculum to create community leaders — and that these donations help further the school’s goals of creating communities.

Sabia also credits the University’s “For Humanity” campaign, a five-year capital campaign aiming to raise $7 billion, for the extra push needed to generate engagement.

“In some ways the pandemic brought to light the critical need for the important work of the Divinity School,” Sabia said. We train students to build and develop communities around the world and in doing so make the world a better place. Now that we have launched For Humanity, the campaign for Yale, we hope for continued momentum, and believe people want to be part of this bigger initiative.”

The Yale Divinity School was founded in 1822.

Alex used to cover all things the Divinity School. Now, she serves as Weekend Editor. She's a junior in Trumbull majoring in English.