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Why should you support your college every month, and not just in March? Part 2.

Why should you support your college every month, and not just in March? Part 2.

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.  This is the second part of Aaron’s article, the first part of which can be found here.  Aaron is the Associate Director of Annual Giving at Brandeis University.  

These are some of the top reasons why you should care about your university’s declining alumni participation rate:

  1. A smaller donor pipeline decreases the likelihood of major alumni donors to exist in the future.

Many millennials say, “I want to give, just not now.” Or, “I’ll start giving once I have more money.” The problem with these assumptions is that it’s often incorrect. Research shows that an individual is much more likely to donate larger amounts later in life if they had been donating smaller amounts all along the way.

Take philanthropists Carl and Ruth Shapiro for example. They made their first donation of $10 in 1950, even though it was all they could afford. It is likely the tens of millions of dollars that the Shapiro’s gave to Brandeis University fifty years later may not have happened had it not been for their early philanthropy.

So if your goal is to eventually become a powerful philanthropist when you strike it rich, you should begin building your own philanthropic pipeline now. And if it’s not you, then you should encourage your friends to make their own small gifts now, because if they make it rich, you’ll want them to give back, won’t you?

  1. More alumni participating means more dollars for students

Yeah, your $10 gift won’t mean much on its own. But the beauty of being part of an alumni community is that you’re not alone. For some of the larger schools like Boston University, there are over 300,000 alumni. With a community that big, just 1% of them (3,000) giving $10 results in $30,000 for the school. That means as long as everyone does their part, one student can receive a significant aid package.

  1. Your school doesn’t have a better way of measuring alumni satisfaction

Just like any company, universities care about “Customer Satisfaction.” Alumni, a college’s “customer,” are the prior recipients of the school’s educational product, and the next generation of students wants to know how much these prior “customers” enjoyed their experience before embarking on a similar one themselves.

How does one measure college satisfaction? Surveys are nice, but they have issues. Methodology is often flawed and multiple choice doesn’t tell the full story. Instead, by looking at the number of alumni who give back each year, a university can truly say what percentage of its former “customers” enjoyed their experience. Rarely does someone donate money to a cause that they don’t believe in.

It is for this reason that US News and World Report includes the alumni giving rate in their overall ranking of each school. Giving back every year helps your school improve in the rankings.

  1. Fewer donors means fewer dollars available for student scholarships

Believe it or not, your expensive tuition bill does not come close to covering the full cost of your college education. Thanks to fundraising, your college was able to offer more programs and resources than they could have relying on tuition money alone. At private non profit four-year schools, tuition revenue pays for less than 1/3 of the university’s expenses.

By relying less on tuition, your school is able to become more and more need-blind in its admissions policy. If your school can accept more students regardless of their ability to pay, the quality of students goes up, and the academic environment improves.

You may ask “Well how can universities still be charging so much if it doesn’t even cover the full budget of the school?” This is a fair question, but what is rarely covered in the media about rising tuition bills, is that financial aid often rises in conjunction with it.

In 2012-2013, the average aid package was around $13,000 per year. The more elite schools offered even more generous financial aid. Dartmouth College offered an average of $46,000 in financial aid in the 2014-2015 academic year, enabling the average student debt after four years to be just over $20,000.

If you graduated with little debt compared to what could have been without financial aid, consider thanking the generosity of your university’s community. And remember, that you’re part of that same community once you graduate.

But merely supporting a school because you care about its rankings is not even half of the story. Philanthropy is a touchy subject. It’s deeply personal, and for millennials it’s often inconceivable. But philanthropy doesn’t need to be large to be important.

Giving back is your way of making your voice heard. It’s your way of declaring your own support for the causes that you believe in and for the organizations that made you who you are.

There are more people going to college today than ever before because of the life-changing opportunities a bachelor’s degree makes available. If your college education truly opened doors for you, personally or professionally, you have an organization to be grateful for, and one which should be on the top of your philanthropic priority list. You will only be able to say that it was at college that you spent four years of self-exploration, introspection, and becoming the real “you.” If your college changed you, you should support it. There is an entire generation of students following in your footsteps now who will be equally as changed by sharing the same great experiences you had.

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 julie@nextgenerosity.org and we’ll pass them on.  

Young, rich, famous & philanthropic: Does celebrity influence for social good make you get in formation?

Young, rich, famous & philanthropic: Does celebrity influence for social good make you get in formation?

Unless you got stranded on Mars, were left to fend for yourself, and defied the odds of botany by successfully farming potatoes on the red planet over the weekend, you probably saw that Beyonce came out with a new single and accompanying music video.  The video has already been analyzed by culture critics, which is chock full of political and racial commentary, as well as #BlackLivesMatter imagery.  And then, predictably, she “slayed” the Superbowl halftime show.  Needless to say, Queen Bey, we are not worthy.  

Once you were brought back down to Earth, and subsequently were reminded that if you ever were to put hot sauce in your bag it would literally spill everywhere, the next focus became grabbing tickets to her Formation World Tour.  But, perhaps the bigger realization of the day was Beyonce’s announcement via a press release that proceeds from the concert would go to support the citizens of Flint, Michigan and the current water crisis through her charitable work, called #BeyGood.

Before I go any further about this, “let’s get in formation” about a couple of things.  First, this is not out of step with Beyonce’s past behavior, and therefore, it jives with me.  She’s been charitable for a long time, focusing on Houston’s Third Ward, Haiti, New Orleans, and girls’ rights across the world, and she’s never been particularly flashy about her philanthropic activity, which I respect.  Most recently, she and Jay-Z have posted bail for activists in the Baltimore protests, and they have also given a large gift to #BlackLivesMatter.  The work Bey and Jay have done for various charities is outlined in various posts on her #BeyGood blog, and interestingly, all of the posts are geared toward encouraging the reader to take an active role by signing a petition, donating time or supplies, or hosting a film screening, to name a few.  You can even apply to become a #BeyGood ambassador (the responsibilities of that role are not explicitly stated).

What is compelling to me about the Knowles-Carter family’s philanthropic activity is not their intentions (which I have no doubt are benevolent).  Rather, I’m interested in the tone with which they present their involvement, as something that their fans should take an active role in, too. It’s arguably the only place that their incredibly well-built fortress of privacy and out-of-reach-ness comes tumbling down.  The seemingly unattainable air of next-level wealth and celebrity that they boast about in plenty of songs is lifted, and all of sudden, Beyonce is urging you, regular old you, to participate.

Beyonce is certainly not the first nor the last celebrity to make these kinds of overtures toward her fans.  Lena Dunham has famously been campaigning for Hillary Clinton in Iowa and is also a passionate supporter of Planned Parenthood.  In the past year, Amy Schumer has been outspoken about the need for stricter gun control policies after a shooting in a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisana playing her film Trainwreck led to three fatalities.  Still more celebrities have been pointedly open about their philanthropy and activism to inspire their fans to follow suit.  And yet, interestingly enough, a recent study from The Millennial Impact Report has shown that only 3% of Millennials are moved to give to non-profit organizations who use celebrity endorsements.

So, maybe these efforts from celebrities trying to influence their fans are all in vain.  Maybe not.  I’m not suggesting one theory either way, and in general, I think more conversation about social impact is always better.  On one hand, I worry that Beyonce’s choice to funnel proceeds from ticket sales to Flint from her Formation World Tour is a half-baked way to get people to think about and/or participate in (however marginally) the crisis.  Would I rather see people choose to give aid to Flint directly without the benefit of getting a concert out of their actions? Absolutely.  But, on the other hand, I have no right to complain.  Has there ever been someone of her stature, her upper-upper-upper echelon of influence, power, and cultural clout, that has chosen to put “the message” – whatever that may be from month to month or year to year – at the center of her relationship with her fans?  Probably not.

Do celebrities’ philanthropy or endorsements influence you?  What do you think of celebrities using their fame to leverage an activist agenda?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

It’s probably best to end this with words from the Queen herself, so when it comes to philanthropy, remember this:  “Always stay gracious, best revenge is your paper.”