An 'Essential' moment in history: NAIT raises record $123M in donations

'The success of this campaign is truly something to celebrate'

Three-and-a-half years and 4,225 supporters added up to a record-breaking $123 million in donations for NAIT students, applied research and campus growth.

Essential, the largest and most ambitious fundraising campaign in the polytechnic’s 55-year history, officially wrapped May 31 with a special thank-you celebration with donors. The campaign smashed the $100-million target set in November 2014.

“The success of this campaign is truly something to celebrate,” says Dr. Glenn Feltham, NAIT’s president and CEO. “That we not only met but exceeded the goal is truly a tribute to all of those who support NAIT and all of those who are willing to invest in our province’s future.”

When the campaign launched, $100 million was “a lofty goal,” Feltham says. And when the economic downturn hit Alberta – which is still feeling the effects – that goal became much more challenging.

Campaign chair Brent Hesje remembers hearing more than once from people in industry that NAIT was “courageous” for launching such an ambitious campaign when it did. But he says he never doubted the final outcome, largely because the campaign was so well planned and executed.

“That we were able to hit that target despite tougher economic times is a reflection of how focused we were in meeting the challenge, and how we’re in a country that’s hungry for productivity improvements,” says Hesje, CEO of Fountain Tire and NAIT’s former board chair.

“It’s also a credit to the strong leadership team and the great relationship NAIT has with the business community, alumni, staff and friends.”

A brighter future thanks to donor support

Chris Crevier is part of that future after graduating with a diploma in Alternative Energy Technology this past April. Crevier was one of 4,000 NAIT students who received a scholarship in 2017-18. Scholarships and bursaries contributed by donors increased 83% since 2009.

“Scholarships brought up my quality of life.”

For Crevier, a former high school dropout who lives in subsidized housing with his mom, scholarships helped make his dream of a post-secondary education – and a better life – more attainable. It meant the difference between new clothes on his back and beat-up T-shirts. They paid for textbooks, a bed and desk, and helped with living costs.

“Scholarships brought up my quality of life. I wouldn’t have been as happy or as well prepared without them.”

A community effort

The fact that so much of the campaign was about improving the student experience only helped in exceeding the goal, says Hesje. Opening new facilities like the  Centre for Applied Technology (CAT) showed donors the impact their gifts had on teaching and learning, he says.

Surpassing $100 million was a community effort, Feltham adds. More than 2,900 individuals and 1,300 industry partners and foundations donated to Essential, with 1,515 NAIT alumni and staff making gifts.

Even students showed their support with a $5-million investment from the NAIT Students’ Association, the largest gift in its history. Some $2 million of that gift was used to help construct CAT.

Donations supported an unprecedented expansion to NAIT’s campuses, adding almost 56,000 square metres (600,000 square feet) of new learning spaces – the size of 2,000 football fields.

“These investments are not only investments in our students, but in our province’s future,” Feltham says. “To all of those who generously supported this campaign, thank you, thank you, thank you – and know that your gift has made a difference.”

100 Reasons to Celebrate

To help celebrate the success of Essential, this spring the polytechnic launched the Essential Effect: 100 Reasons to Celebrate. The website tells the story of the Essential campaign with 100 stories, video, social media posts, photos showcasing the impact on teaching and learning from the perspective of students, alumni, staff and donors.


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