Donating campaign to revamp strategy for seniors
Published: Monday, February 20, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, February 21, 2012 03:02
In previous years, the Senior Class Gift Council began soliciting donations from students at the beginning of the academic year via email, phone calls and advertising. This year, however, the council has altered its approach.
Alex Hoffmaster, adviser to the Senior Class Gift Council, said his office is changing the council's communication methods as a part of its student engagement plan.
The council hopes to explain the benefits of philanthropy to students to encourage them to donate at the end of their senior year.
"We have learned over the last couple of years that for students to make the choice to make a gift and actually take action, to sign the check or do it online, they need to be educated about philanthropy first," Hoffmaster said. "We can't just expect them to know about all the inner-workings of the finances of the university."
Hoffmaster said his office and the council carried out a campaign promoting the benefits of philanthropy during the fall semester, and hopes to prepare graduates to be lifelong donors. Upperclassmen received emails and events were held across campus.
Senior Chris McElwee, student co-chair of the council, said the committee will lead an eight-week campaign seeking donations from seniors through emails and visits to classrooms after spring break.
"Everything has to start with the first phase. We can't go zero to 60 all at once," McElwee said. "I definitely think the committee has the potential to continue growing, it's just a matter of waiting it out and expecting bigger and better things each year."
Senior civil engineering major John Lowe said he is unaware of the senior gift-giving process and many of his peers are as well.
Lowe said he never saw any evidence of the council's educational campaign.
"There's a good chance if they sent an email then it's in-between seven other messages I didn't read," Lowe said. "If they sent anything in the mail, then they probably sent it home and I haven't been there in forever."
The council will also continue a recently-launched donation strategy this year. Traditionally, the senior class pooled its money to fund a single, tangible gift that students voted for. The class of 2009 was the last class to give a collectively funded gift. They raised $100,000 to help fund the installation of solar panels on the roofs of the Delaware Field House, Clayton Hall and the Center for Disabilities Studies.
Hoffmaster said the 2010 council changed its approach from tangible gift-giving to unrestricted giving, the same model used by the general alumni base. Since then, students have made donations through the council to any university organization, college, team or fund of their choice. Their donations have been tallied and presented as the "senior gift."
Students have not responded as generously to the new senior gift system as in years past. Last year, approximately 4,224 seniors presented a check of $9,700 for 115 recipients at graduation. On the council's final count, the class raised $10,392.12.
Hoffmaster said he would like to see that figure increased through the active participation of the council's 15 members. He also said he hoped more students will join the council.
"I will be blunt," he said. "This committee, for an institution that's the size of Delaware, should be about 50 members, so we're really trying to increase that. We need representation in all seven of the colleges, we want different types of registered student organizations represented, everybody."
McElwee also said the council needs more participation, and said he hoped the new approach to educating students will help recruit more members.
Robin Wray, senior director of annual giving in the Office of Development, said unrestricted giving is a way for each individual senior to enhance programs they utilized at the university or support. The office acts as a support structure for the council.
"It's a great way that, if you're involved in extracurricular or academics, you can say ‘I believe in this, and I want to help this next year,'" Wray said. "It's real personal that way."
Senior mass communications major Macey Schiff said that, if she does give money, she would donate to one of the volunteer organizations she is involved with on campus.
Hoffmaster said that the council's new educational efforts will have a compounding effect on underclassmen.
"Ideally, those who are freshmen now, if they go through three and a half years of education, then when we come around their spring senior year they'll be ready to go," Hoffmaster said. "They'll know all about everything that we're doing and they'll be ready to sign the check."