Why ask alumni to give?

November 30, 2011 by jbjerke

University of La Verne graduate Sarah Ludwick, MS ‘94 and her husband Art Ludwick (a graduate of Stanford), for whom the Ludwick Conference Center is named, are among the university’s leading donors.

Questions, comments, and suggestions about fund raising are always interesting to me. They range from questions like the one President Emeritus Steve Morgan says he was once asked in a faculty meeting, “Have you ever thought of asking alumni for money?” to the suggestion we “fund raise” instead of raising tuition, and “look for real donations as opposed to relying on alumni and faculty…”

Is the University of La Verne committed to raising money to support endowment, academic programs, labs, student scholarships, and facilities? Absolutely.

Does fund raising reduce the amount students would otherwise have to pay to attend La Verne? Of course.

Do we ask alumni, faculty, and staff to contribute? Certainly. We encourage everyone who cares about our university to participate.

Does the fact we ask alumni, faculty, staff and even students to contribute mean we are not asking others? Or that we are failing to contact people with “real money”? Absolutely not! (Though I always thought all money was real.)

Who else do we ask for contributions besides alumni, faculty, and staff? Trustees, foundations, corporations, churches, parents of students, and individuals in the community.

Fund raising solicitation of members of the campus community is of course more visible to the campus community than efforts with other donors. These activities with faculty, staff, and students represent only a very small portion of the total dollars raised or total number of donors, but they are important for building the base of support for the future.

Further, regarding staff giving, there are actually several current and former faculty and staff whose lifetime giving exceeds $100,000. The largest faculty/staff cash gift to the Campus Center Project was from a former faculty member, in excess of $300,000. One current faculty member has made a provision for La Verne, in a living trust, in excess of $400,000. We should all be deeply grateful for this level of loyalty to the institution and generosity.

Beth Landis ’45 and Richard G. Landis ’42, alumni who met while students at La Verne, have established the university’s largest scholarship endowment fund, at over $2 million, which has supported hundreds of Landis Leadership Scholarships over many years. They have supported every major initiative at the university for many years, and the Landis Academic Center is named in their honor.

Each year, the Giving USA Foundation publishes its excellent analysis of charitable giving to nonprofits by corporations, foundations, individuals and estates. For years now, the percent of dollars raised from individuals plus the percent of dollars raised from estates (which were, of course, accumulated by individuals) has hovered between 82 and 83 percent. Full article at http://change4yourdollar.com/fundraising/put-individual-donors-first-this-fiscal-year/

A widely-held perception is that corporations and foundations are the biggest sources to tap for grants and donations. The reality is that four out of five or 80 percent of philanthropic dollars are contributed by individuals and bequests. That rises to 87 percent if you include family foundation giving. Full article at http://www.nps.gov/partnerships/fundraising_individuals_statistics.htm

Individuals who hold college degrees are all alumni of some college or university. It is curious that some assume that La Verne alumni “have no money”. Do they think that other universities’ alumni may have money but ours do not? The University of La Verne has 55,000 living alumni. They include prominent, successful individuals in every possible field. Consistent with national data from other universities, 71% of all our donors are alumni and most of our largest donors are alumni. Therefore a large part of the fund raising program is targeted to alumni, a number of whom have given hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of dollars to the university.

The majority of major donors start out by making a small gift as a student or young graduate. A study of all the million-dollar donors in UCLA’s last $3 billion campaign revealed that more than 50% of UCLA alumni who gave over $1 million during that 10-year campaign started their giving, on the average, 18 years earlier with a first gift of under $100. University of La Verne Trustee Paul Moseley’s first gift was for the senior class giving campaign at La Verne and President Emeritus Steve Morgan’s first gift to La Verne was also during his senior year at La Verne in 1968.

A few facts about giving to the University of La Verne:

  • Last year the total of private gifts and grants was over $4.8 million.
  • The total number of donors last year was 2,656.
  • Of all gifts to La Verne over the last five years 63% of total dollars came from individuals (alumni, trustees, parents, friends, staff, students); 37% of total dollars came from foundations and corporations)
  • Private grant support totals about $1 million per year.
  • This year our professional fund raising staff will conduct approximately one thousand personal visits with donors and prospective donors to raise the majority of dollars that will be given to the university.
  • In addition to the personal relationships and personal solicitation of the top donors and prospects, we will send 210,000 direct mail solicitation pieces; make approximately 750,000 telemarketing calls soliciting support; and send about 115,000 e-solicitations.
  • We will send an additional 439,000 non-solicitation pieces of mail and 264,000 non-solicitation blast email messages to alumni this year, to keep them engaged and connected – an important part of setting the stage for successful fund raising.
  • These are the efforts that have been yielding $5 million per year in gifts, and if we had the staff and funds to do more, the total amount raised would be even greater.

Why do we ask everybody to give? Because asking is what prompts donors to make their gifts. Research has shown that when donors are asked why they made a gift, the overwhelming response is “I was asked.”

Why do we devote any effort at all to asking students and staff to give? Because every gift is important. The total of hundreds or thousands of $5 or $10 or $100 gifts adds up to a very large sum. In the case of students, learning about giving and making their first gift, even if it is only $5, is an important lesson and an important start on what will in some cases be a lifetime of philanthropy. One of today’s student donors to the Spotted Pig Campaign might be a future Sarah Ludwick, Dick Landis, Beth Landis, or Luis Faura.

Luis Faura ‘89 is a graduate of the College of Business and Public Management, Chairman of the university’s Board of Trustees, and a generous donor. 46% of the Trustees are alumni and all are important donors.

Further, grant makers and some individual donors want to see that alumni and staff are supporting the institution. They will typically ask not what is the total dollar amount alumni give, but what is the percentage of your alumni who give to La Verne? If our own alumni do not demonstrate their commitment to La Verne, why should anyone else give? The percentage of alumni giving to the institution is also one of the criteria for external rankings such as U.S. News and World Report.

If you enjoy using the Campus Center, to eat at Barbara’s Place, or for recreation, TV, the Learning Enhancement Center, labs, classrooms, or your office space, you might appreciate knowing that approximately two-thirds of the names on the donor wall in the Campus Center, which recognizes gifts of $10,000 or more to that $26 million project, are alumni.

Students entering the university starting next year will benefit from nearly $400,000 that has already been pledged to help launch the La Verne Experience – a distinctive new educational approach that will begin for new students in Fall 2012. Approximately half of the $400,000 pledged is from alumni and staff.

If you are a student asked to give to the Spotted Pig campaign; if you are a faculty member, staff member, or graduate; or if you are a parent, trustee, or friend in the community, I hope that when you are asked to give, you will seriously consider how you can help students today and in the future, through your own gift. If you do not choose to make a gift now, or every time you are asked, that is your choice.

If we know your name and how to contact you, you will be asked. But it is not true that the only time you will ever hear from us is when we want money.

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