Panthers give back to MOVEMIDD forward

By Erin Kelly, Senior Sports Editor

Middlebury Panthers rallied behind a different sort of competition this semester: trying to outraise each other in financial aid fundraising for the college’s two-day MOVEMIDD Challenge. 

The MOVEMIDD Challenge called on the Middlebury community to come together and raise money for the college’s financial aid budget from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1. College trustees set the overarching goal for the campaign, promising that if 1,800 donors joined the effort (a number set in honor of Middlebury’s founding year), they would donate an extra $220,000 to celebrate the college’s 220th birthday. The fundraiser ultimately raised $985,405 from 2,976 donors, exceeding the college’s expectations for both donor and monetary support. 

“With nearly 3,000 donors participating, we are thrilled with the results,” Alanna Shanley ’99, the executive director of annual giving and donor relations, said.

The Middlebury Athletics Office used the fundraiser to create friendly competition among teams, challenging current and previous student-athletes to contribute to the campaign. In a promotional video produced by the Athletics Office to support the MOVEMIDD Challenge, Director of Athletics Erin Quinn ’86 called upon donors to support the nearly 30% of Middlebury students who compete in a varsity sport. 

“Top-level athletes choose Middlebury because they want to be challenged in the classroom and they want to excel at the sport they love. That’s why the MOVEMIDD Challenge is so important,” Quinn stated in the video. “Gifts to financial aid allow the best student-athletes to enroll at Middlebury, regardless of their financial circumstances. With a gift to the MOVEMIDD Challenge, you’ll help to ensure that we never have to turn away the athletes that make our Panther program strong and competitive.” 

Kitty Bartlett, the director of annual giving, said the goal for the so-called Panthers Give Back athletics sub-campaign was set at 1,200 donors because that was roughly the number of gifts contributed by athletes during last year’s Proud to be a Panther Challenge. Although only 1,140 Panthers donated this year, the athletes still raised a total of $104,936 for financial aid. Men’s and women’s lacrosse topped the respective male and female donor leaderboards, in large part due to their “very active alumni networks [which allowed them to] attract the highest rate of participation from their rosters of alumni,” according to Shanley. Men’s lacrosse’s 268 donors raised $27,222, while women’s lacrosse’s 58 donors raised $5,638. Football also raised a notable $26,493 from 147 donors. 

According to Shanley, the MOVEMIDD Challenge was hosted through an online crowdfunding platform that showed real-time progress toward the college’s goals during the two-day campaign. The fundraiser was promoted through postcards, emails, texts and social media. Volunteer class agents, representing different decades of Middlebury alumni, also reached out to their classmates personally to encourage support for current Middlebury students. The Athletics Office promoted the challenge through coaches and athletics staff, who worked with the Office of Advancement and volunteers to share the challenge with alumni, parents and friends of varsity sports. 

Of the 2,976 total donors, the largest numbers came from Massachusetts with 558 donors, New York with 360, Vermont with 263 and California with 236. Of Massachusetts’s 558 donors, 250 were athletes. The challenge also extended its reach worldwide, with 21 donors from the United Kingdom, nine from China and five from Canada, in addition to other donations from Brazil, Germany, India and France.

Shanley said she hopes Middlebury will build upon the success of this year’s MOVEMIDD Challenge and continue to support Panther financial aid in the future, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. “Thank you to the amazing Middlebury community — alumni, parents, friends, coaches, faculty, staff and students — for coming together to support students in this most unusual year,” Shanley said.