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Sweet Briar soars past fundraising goal in sixth annual March Days of Giving

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On March 3, 2015, the board of directors of Sweet Briar College in Amherst County announced the school would close that August, citing financial struggles. Students, alumnae and other supporters rallied to save the school.

Nearly six years after a legal settlement and massive fundraising effort saved Sweet Briar College from a closure attempt, the Amherst women’s college is touting $1.8 million raised as part of its March Days of Giving.

Each year, March Days of Giving is an opportunity for the college’s extended community to show its commitment to and confidence in Sweet Briar, according to a news release. The event began March 1 and continued through March 10, to honor founder Indiana Fletcher Williams on her birthday.

In 2021, the goal for March 1 was to raise $500,000, which the community exceeded in less than 24 hours. The second challenge was to raise another $500,000 between March 2 and March 10, the release said.

Eleven alumnae — five anonymous donors plus Cornelia Matson, Patti Pusey, Sarah Boehmler, Frances Morse, Kay Picha and Martha Holland — pledged $500,000 to match gifts raised during the nine-day period. More than $800,000 was raised. The community answered the challenge by raising $1,836,634 overall in less than 10 days.

“Thanks to the unwavering generosity of our alumnae and friends, as demonstrated by their extraordinary response to our March Days of Giving,” SBC President Meredith Woo said in the release. “Sweet Briar College is financially stable and strong. Our work to redefine leadership for the twenty-first century, centered on women, resonates deeply. Young women are interested in Sweet Briar and our enrollment is growing.”

Over the past five years, Sweet Briar has raised more than $60 million to support academic innovations such as the college’s women’s leadership core curriculum and ensuring Sweet Briar’s commitment to engineering, the arts and sustainability and agriculture.

In March 2015, the Sweet Briar community was shocked with a previous administration’s announcement the college would close. Alumnae rallied with financial support and the move led to a lawsuit in Bedford County Circuit Court, resulting in a June 2015 legal resolution that kept the school operating under new leadership.

Sweet Briar’s original unrestricted fundraising goal for fiscal year 2021 was $5 million, but because of COVID-19 a stretch goal was established to raise $8.2 million to offset the costs of the pandemic, according to the college. So far, Sweet Briar has raised $6.5 million, strengthening the college’s solid financial position with deposits for admissions exceeding its milestone at this time last year.

“Sweet Briar is the strongest it has been in the last six years,” the college said in the release.

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