Officials are hopeful for Bold & Blue campaign after national success


Madelyn Murphy, Reporter

South Dakota State University Foundation’s Bold & Blue campaign has raised 90 percent of its half-billion-dollar fundraising goal and officials are optimistic the giving will continue due to recent events that have put the university on a national stage.  

2022 was the third-largest fundraising year in the university’s history. 

The Bold & Blue initiative has raised just over $447 million since the campaign began in 2017 and was announced publicly in 2021, raising a large portion of the campaign’s $500 million goal.

“We are always amazed but never surprised of how people respond,” Foundation President and CEO Steve Erpenbach said.  

He said that the Bold & Blue campaign could wrap up in early 2024, but that doesn’t mean fundraising is over. Recent events such as the Pride of the Dakotas marching at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and the football team’s championship win will “energize people all over the country,” and could encourage more giving from donors, Erpenbach said.  

These high-profile events allow donors to see their dollars at work, Erpenbach said.

 “They see the difference, that them investing in South Dakota State, at some level, matters,” he said.  

 Justin Sell, director of athletics, said that events like winning the championship game creates opportunities to connect with potential donors who feel passionate about the university. 

“[The football team] could have a tremendously large impact on the giving short term and long term,” Sell said. 

 The Bold & Blue campaign has four main categories where donors can choose which they want to contribute to: people, places, traditions and innovations. 

Of the $447 million that has been donated so far in the campaign, 65 percent of the donations have been donated to people, 18 percent have been donated to places, 12 percent have been donated to innovations, 2 percent for  traditions and 3 percent of what has been donated falls into none of the categories, according to Erpenbach.  

This “very people centered,” campaign is thriving because of its 27,000 donors, Erpenbach said.

About 93 percent of the donations have come from individuals, while 7 percent have come from organizations. The donations are also split in half between instate and out-of-state donors.  

All generations have donated to this initiative from all across the country, and donors are able to see the difference their gifts are making. Many of the dollars that have been donated to the campaign are already at work and impacting South Dakota State, Erpenbach said. The building of the Raven Precision Agriculture Center and an addition on to the Oscar Larson Performing Arts Center were possible because of donations given to the places portion of the Bold & Blue initiative. 

Currently, Foundation money along with a commitment of $20 million from First Bank and Trust are being used for the construction of soon-to-be-renamed First Bank and Trust Arena, set to be completed in fall 2024. The donation from First Bank and Trust is one of the largest gifts that the SDSU Foundation has ever received, Erpenbach said.  

While the new arena will be beneficial for university athletics, Sell said it will support the university as a whole. 

“It’s almost immeasurable in terms of the value and the impact on what it does for this university,” Sell said.  

Erpenbach also said that this campaign has had a large emphasis on increasing scholarship dollars and growing endowments.  

“The Bold & Blue campaign has raised more than $447 million to include $145 million for student scholarships and a $214 million endowment value,” President Barry Dunn said.  

With this level of success, Erpenbach said that for the 2022-2023 school year, the highest value ever of student scholarships was given out, showing donors’ interest in investing in students and faculty. 

“There is not a college or part of the university that isn’t touched every year by private gifts,” Erpenbach said.  

After six years of fundraising for the Bold & Blue campaign, donations have nearly doubled in monetary amount compared to the last campaign ran by the Foundation from 2007-2013. 

“The generosity of our donors from a national perspective is unbelievable,” Sell said. “For a school our size, to raise as much as we have, to do the projects that we have, in a private way, is not seen 

very many places, if any at all.”

Erpenbach said that big ideas developed by the university are what encourages donors to keep contributing to the school.

“Whether it be raising funds for new or upgraded facilities, enhancing the number of endowed positions at SDSU or fundraising for student scholarships, the SDSU Foundation stretches across all areas of campus to help ensure our success,” Dunn said.  

With the Bold & Blue campaign entering its later stages of fundraising and nearing its $500 million goal, Erpenbach emphasized that, “We want everyone to feel that regardless of the size of the gift, they are a part of something really big.”