In partnership with CCS Fundraising, the University of Southern Maine raised $50 million in three years, the largest raised in any campaign of the university’s history and with an unprecedented 2,300 first-time donors.

Group of people holding a campaign total sign.

Based in: Portland, ME, Northeast US, United States

Sector: Higher Education

Reach: Local

Key Elements

  • The Great University’s Campaign motto was Great Takes Grit.
  • CCS supported USM in keeping focused and creating a framework for ensuring resilience in turbulent times.
  • Campaigning also helped strengthen the advancement team’s structure, integrating liaison roles for colleges/schools.

Working hand-in-hand with CCS Fundraising throughout the Great University Campaign was an absolute gamechanger for us at the University-of Southern Maine. Despite the ‘unprecedented times’ of the world around us, CCS provided steadfast, strategic guidance that helped us stay the course, build a best practice shop and a culture of philanthropy, and achieve incredible results.Great takes grit” wasn’t just a catchy campaign slogan; it embodied our shared drive to build something truly special. Great cities have great universities, and in today’s world, public institutions like USM that provide both access and excellence play a vital role in shaping our democracy and securing our future. CCS was more than just a partner; they were our rock, reminding us that with persistence, focus, and vision, greatness is always within reach.

ainsley wallace, president & ceo, University of southern maine foundation


CCS Fundraising completed a feasibility study for USM’s next campaign in early 2020. In March 2020, at the start of very real social and economic uncertainty, during which market and social conditions were changing rapidly every day, the USM Foundation’s Board of Trustees voted to proceed with a $46 million, five-year comprehensive campaign. In partnership with USM Foundation leadership and staff, our charge was to keep focused and resilient amidst a turbulent philanthropic environment. 


The Great University Campaign sought to bolster scholarships, enhance academic and athletic programs, and build two much-needed centers on its urban Portland campus, including the Crewe Center for the Arts and the McGoldrick Center for Career & Student Success.

With CCS’s help from March 2020 through September 2023, USM successfully navigated presidential and Cabinet-level transitions, staff turnover, a challenging capital approval process, and many more hurdles. A strong commitment to a campaign posture and framework ensured the USM community was aligned around core operating principles, while also allowing for the nimbleness, flexibility, and responsiveness required in uncertain times. The Great  University Campaign adopted the motto, “Great takes grit.”

THE impact

USM’s Great University Campaign, planned for five years, was completed in just three years, exceeding its original goal of $46 million for a total of more than $50 million. This effort marks the most philanthropic dollars raised in the shortest span in USM’s history. Funds raised included $14.7 million for scholarships and student support programs, including an endowment of The Promise Scholarship Program for tenacious, first-generation Maine students. Further, campaign supporters included over 4,400 donors, of whom 2,300 were first-time givers.

Featured Team Member

From launching their campaign in the shadow of the earliest COVID-19 shutdowns, to accelerating the campaign to close two years ahead of schedule amid a university presidential transition, the talented team at the USM Foundation really did prove that Great Takes Grit! It was CCS’s privilege to partner with such dedicated colleagues to make a lasting impact for USM’s students. This will be a campaign that we talk about for years to come—not only because of the tremendous fundraising results, but also because of the learnings gleaned through balancing disciplined best practices with the need to be responsive and flexible.

sarah krasin, managing director, CCS Fundraising
A profile picture of Sarah Krasin.

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