Faculty and staff giving reaches $30 million over 10 years

The tenth anniversary Ignite Campaign donor lapel pin

On the heels of an auspicious fundraising year, during which FIU faculty and staff stepped up to support students and each other through the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ignite Campaign 2021 launched on February 25 with a virtual celebration honoring the start of its tenth anniversary year. 

The fiscal year 2020-2021 marks “A Decade of Giving” through the Ignite Campaign; and over the course of that decade, faculty and staff have given $30 million back to FIU, supporting more than 280 donor-driven projects and funds across the university. The projects span the disciplines and needs of the university, including first-generation scholarships, book scholarships for employees studying at FIU, scholarships in memory of former faculty, emergency assistance funds, the student food pantry, departmental enrichment funds, outreach programs, and more. 

In fiscal year 2019-2020, a year when emergency aid need increased by 277 percent and the university received more than 18,000 requests for assistance from students, faculty and staff raised more than $2.5 million through Ignite for students and fellow employees. As a result, more than 1,250 students received support through Ignite last year. 

“We all have been tested, and through this all, we have demonstrated resilience and persistence,” Howard Lipman, senior vice president for University Advancement and CEO of the FIU Foundation, noted at the celebration. 

Among those assisted by Ignite is interior architecture master’s student Alejandro Estrada. Though he struggled to pay for housing as a result of the pandemic, he received the financial intervention he needed, and he says he is truly grateful. 

“I’m living proof that a small donation can go a long way, and it really does help,” Estrada said.  

Averaging 80 percent participation in Ignite over the last two years, FIU leads the State University System for faculty and staff giving campaigns and is among the top campaigns in the nation. Forty out of 42 units achieved at least 50 percent participation last year, and 22 reached 100 percent – a milestone achievement. Adding to the campaign’s points of pride, 100 percent of faculty and staff who are also FIU alumni gave to Ignite for the past two years.  

It’s more than just “the cost of a cup of coffee” – Ignite’s fundraising tagline. Over the past decade, faculty and staff philanthropy has become a culture at FIU.  

It’s a source of immense pride for campaign founder and faculty emeritus Steve Fain.  

“In reflecting over the past ten years, I am gratified that we have inserted philanthropy into our FIU culture. Responding to the community’s needs has always been in our DNA, but through Ignite, we have shown that we also care for our FIU students, colleagues and associates who need support. And, through Ignite, we have revealed that caring for our own is also in our DNA. That’s how we roll!” Fain said.  

The campaign’s successes have also earned the university multiple gold and grand gold awards from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the preeminent professional organization in educational advancement. 

At the celebration, seven faculty and staff were inducted into Ignite’s Torchbearer Society, which recognizes those who have made significant planned gifts to the university to establish endowments for scholarships and other funds. The society now includes 31 members. 

President Mark B. Rosenberg thanked faculty and staff for their continued commitment to the university and its students, remarking that this meaningful work makes a real difference in the lives of the people FIU serves. 

“We’ve always had a sense of urgency and purpose, because we know that every degree we award changes lives and uplifts our community,” Rosenberg said.  

As the pandemic stretches on, the financial strain on many Panthers worsens. The Ignite Campaign is currently at 44 percent participation. To make your annual gift or to learn more about the funds and projects available through Ignite, please visit

“No gift is too small, and every gift counts. Ignite appreciates and celebrates every donor and every donation,” Fain said. “Together, we can move mountains.” 

Watch President Rosenberg’s message to Ignite participants: