Redbirds Rising: Fundraising surpasses $150 million goal

Over 51,000 donors helped Illinois State University reach the $150 million Redbirds Rising Campaign goal. (Photo courtesy: WJBC/File)

By Blake Haas

NORMAL – Illinois State University has met its intended Redbirds Rising Campaign goal, thirteen months ahead of schedule.

Alumni and friends have contributed more than $155.4 million to the campaign, helping the University achieve the goal aimed at raising $150 million.

“The goal has been a completely collaborative effort on campus and around the world, with alumni and friends contributing gifts of all sizes to the campaign,” said Laura Freyman, ISU assistant director of Donor Communications and Stewardship. “We started in the silent phase in 2013, and it has just grown steadily since then. We have gained momentum in the last few months, and that has allowed us to surpass our campaign goal.”

Over 51,000 donors contributed to the campaign, including 23,000 first-time donors to the University.

LISTEN: WJBC’s Blake Haas talks with Laura Freyman, assistant director of Donor Communications and Stewardship at Illinois State University:

“We had a huge emphasis on the campus community, we had our Birds Give Back day (which raised $625,495), which is a first time ever ISU only philanthropy day,” added Freyman. “We really have just worked throughout the campaign to try and help other people contribute and to really match their interest with the areas that they can contribute too.”

Freyman added the money will be allocated to a variety of areas with $61.8 million earmarked to directly benefit student scholarships.

“We have over 200 endowed funds, and many of those will support student scholarship,” said Freyman. “We are helping to make school more affordable and accessible for students of all different backgrounds. We also have some new projects with technology and innovations.”

Blake Haas can be reached at


Labor Day – Expanding voting rights for all

By Mike Matejka Because of COVID, there is no Labor Day Parade this year.  It’s always a great event for our everyday workers to march proudly down the street and enjoys the festive crowd. If there had been a parade, this year’s Labor Day theme was to be “150 years of struggle: your right to vote.” …

Is federal mobilization the answer?

By Mike Matejka As President Donald Trump threatens to send federal marshals into Chicago, over the objections of Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker, recall another Illinois Governor who protested the incursion of armed federal personnel into the city.   Those federal troops, rather than calming, escalated the situation, leading to deaths and violence. Illinois poet Vachel Lindsay…

In these troubled times, to my fellow white Americans

By Mike Matejka Our nation is at a unique watershed in human relations. African-Americans have been killed too many times in the past before George Floyd, but the response to this man’s death is international and all-encompassing. I was a grade-schooler during the Civil Rights 1960s. I watched Birmingham demonstrators hosed and the Selma – Montgomery…

Workers’ Memorial Day – Remember those whose job took their life

Looking around our community, when we say employer, most will respond to State Farm, Country, or Illinois State University.   We too often forget those who are building our roads, serving our food, or our public employees. COVID-19 has made us more aware of the risk.  Going to work every day for some people means…