Browsed by
Month: April 2016

Why should you support your college every month, and not just in March?

Why should you support your college every month, and not just in March?

My five-year college reunion is coming up in June, and whenever I think about that I feel myself doing a double take and saying, “Where did the time go?” I had a wonderful college experience, and I look to that time as one that helped shape the person I’ve become.  Even still, there’s something about giving to Brandeis, my alma mater, that feels a little different than my other philanthropy.  I know I share that sentiment with many of my peers who are often hit up by their respective universities for donations.  A lot of people feel put off by that, especially given the rising costs of tuition, the continuous looming weight of shouldering their loans, and the understandable argument that if they’ve graduated, they won’t be the people benefiting from the school, so what’s the point of giving?  I asked my friend and former classmate Aaron Louison to help people understand why giving to their school is a good idea.  Aaron is the Associate Director of Annual Giving at Brandeis University.  

With the 2016 NCAA March Madness college basketball tournament having wrapped up this week, students and alumni from 68 different colleges and universities have been passionately rooting for their alma maters to make a storybook run into the Final Four. Despite so much pride for their collegiate basketball teams and with the tournament in 2015 reaching its highest viewership in 22 years, this athletics pride has not translated to these same alumni giving back to support their schools.

Most alumni from any reputable college will tell you that they had the best time as undergrads. From the parties to academics, and making life-long friends, it is hard to find any college grad who says that their four years on campus weren’t some of the most exciting and transformative of their lives. With more Americans attending college today than ever before, one would expect that the number of alumni who give back to their school would also grow. But current research shows a long-term trend of declining numbers of alumni donors to their undergraduate institutions.

Higher education has transformed over the last few decades from the traditional training in the liberal arts to an emphasis on career-focused instruction. This change has impacted the affinity graduates have with their alma maters from one of life-changing education to career preparation. While both are important, donors require a deep connection to an institution in order to give.

From a university’s perspective, the problem is two-fold: 1. Declining numbers of donors, and 2. Increasing numbers of alumni. Over the last thirty years, enrollment has increased industry-wide from 26% to over 40%. This, compounded with the declining numbers of donors, stresses a university’s top-indicator of alumni satisfaction: Alumni Participation Rates (Total Alumni Donors/Total Alumni of Record).

But why should you care? “My university’s alumni participation rate has no impact on me,” you might say. While this may be true in a direct sense, indirectly, it has a huge impact.

Next week, Aaron shares more about why you should care about your college’s fundraising efforts.  Tune in!  Have a question for Aaron?  Send ’em to and we’ll pass them on.  

Everyone loves a good party.

Everyone loves a good party.

Full disclosure: I love a good event.  I like the whole process of getting ready for them.  I like picking out an outfit and I like getting my hair done and I like figuring out where to eat before the event and I like knowing who all is going.  I like imagining what could happen at the event itself.  Maybe the DJ will be on point and I’ll have an incredible time dancing the night away.  Maybe I’ll meet a tall, dark stranger who will be the man of my dreams.  Maybe maybe maybe.

Have I struck a chord?  I feel your nods of recognition.  Events are fun.  The prospect of them is titillating, and by the time you reassure yourself that the $100+ ticket was going toward a worthy cause, you’ve gotten too drunk off the open bar that was promised to you to worry about how much you spent to be there for two and a half hours (because, truth time, between Drybar running behind for your blow-out appointment, and trying to coordinate how to get 20 people into Ubers from the pre-game your friend hosted at their apartment, you got there at least an hour late).  They provide you with something different to do on a weekend night, a surefire way to mix things up, and they make you feel fancy.  All this liking and snapping and gramming is making us crave contact – so why not dress up to do so?

And yet, nothing I mentioned about the appeal of an event had anything to do with the reason for the event itself.  Events have become the answer to the question: how do we engage people in our cause in an exciting way?  As a young fundraiser who is often saddled with the responsibility of coordinating events for donors, I totally get this logic.  By bringing folks together in a social environment where the liquor flows and the good times roll, a whole group of people then will have positive associations with and memories of your organization.  There’s a lot to be said for being able to build a lot of good will in a very short span of time.

The other side of that coin is that events are a lot of work, a lot of “much ado.”  And depending on the bandwidth the organization’s staff has, the harder events are to implement.  Plus, events are expensive!  Seriously, they are no joke, especially the idea of an “open bar” (just ask anyone trying to find a venue for their wedding).  In some cases, non-profits that have the ability to leverage discounts may have an easier time at keeping down costs, and therefore netting higher profits from the event.  Even still, the costs of putting on a great event are high.

Then there’s the night itself.  The guests show up an hour after the allotted start time (blaming Drybar and Uber for their tardiness, as aforementioned).  They drink a ton, and maybe they pay attention to the speeches that are made.  It all goes by in a blur, whether you planned the thing or you’re just attending it.  And the chances of everyone who came truly understanding what it was all really for when they wake up the next morning, heads pounding from the buckets of champagne and jonesing for brunch?  Let’s be real, they’re pretty slim.

It’s safe to say that fundraising events are often some of the first experiences Millennials have with giving, and therefore, it’s important to talk about them.  There’s just simply too much to say in only one post, so I’ll be starting a series of posts that address various issues around fundraising events, including what to think about when you’re buying tickets to events, tales from the trenches of event fundraising, and advice on how to make your fundraising events more successful (if you’re planning them).  Check back!