Students walking at City University of Hong Kong. Scholarship support for students is critical to their Carlson School experience.

Driven Campaign Success

Friday, October 8, 2021

Raising $190 million in philanthropic gifts and private grants, the Carlson School recently completed the most successful fundraising campaign in its history.


The Driven campaign publicly launched in 2017, with a goal of raising $150 million to secure the Carlson School’s future as the regional destination for the next generation of business leaders, and as a partner in the continued success of the companies and organizations that call Minnesota home.

Guided by the vision of Dean Sri Zaheer, school leadership, and a campaign steering committee of 14 alumni and volunteers, the campaign was built to ensure the continued prominence of the Carlson School on a foundation of four pillars: student support, faculty excellence, transformative educational experiences, and community engagement. The campaign evolved over time, based on the feedback and philanthropic priorities of donors, to focus more directly on ensuring excellent student outcomes.

“Donors spoke, and clearly showed through their giving that what is most important to us—providing an excellent student experience—is also most important to them,” Assistant Dean of Institutional Advancement Travis Smith, ’21 MBA, says.

The school’s longstanding priority of securing funds for scholarships especially resonated with donors, with 60 percent of the total dollars raised committed accordingly. A cornerstone of this success was the Centennial Scholars Program, a bold $50 million scholarship initiative that will allow the school to nimbly recruit top scholars. (Learn more about the Centennial Scholars Program).

The resulting increase in scholarship funding helps the Carlson School remain competitive among its peers and a top choice for the most promising students. It also allows more students to pursue their areas of study and post-graduation plans based on their passions and interests, without the burden of large loans.

A related, but distinct, priority area that sets the Carlson School apart from its peers is the breadth and depth of experiential learning opportunities available to students. Such programming ensures students have hands-on, real-world experiences that enrich their education and delivers globally-minded leaders into the workforce. An additional $60 million in philanthropic giving expands these transformative experiences for students—including international experiences, social impact consulting projects, case competitions, entrepreneurial activities, and more. The funds also eliminate the barriers that prevent students from pursuing such opportunities.

Nearly 10,000 donors contributed to the success of the Carlson School’s Driven campaign, including 4,678 donors who made their first gift. A collaborative effort across the alumni base led to Driven’s philanthropic success: A majority of campaign gifts were less than $250, and at the same time, more than 250 donors made first-time major gifts of $50,000 or more. It is the collective impact of each and every gift that makes the difference for the Carlson School’s students, faculty, and programs.


raised in philanthropic gifts and private grants


raised for scholarships to support students


donors contributed, including 4,678 first-time donors


donors made first-time major gifts of $50,000 or more

Fall 2021 alumni magazine cover

This article appeared in the Fall 2021 alumni magazine

Our world, our lives, and our work have changed. We must continue to adapt.

So, how do we do that? Where do we go from here? What’s next?

Fall 2021 table of contents