Saturday, March 20, 2010

Innovative Philanthropy.

Annual Funds.

I realize that this is how many organizations stay afloat, build or rebuild, gift or re-gift. In the past month, I've been contacted by charming students from my alma maters. And as much as I cherish the memories of Christ the King and St. Pius X and Villanova, I don't have the expendable income to eke out a donation. I particularly love when they highball and ask for $500. The student volunteers REALLY get confused when I say, "When I do get a full-time job, and have the means to donate, do you have a website or a number that I can call?" There's a confused pause, and then, "Um. No."

Now first: for educational institutions that, I believe, did an excellent job educating students, you'd think they could do a little intuitive research. I realize that background-checking all the alumni on the call-list is out of the question, but perhaps when the query "So, what have you been doing since you graduated?" is answered with, "Well, I worked as a Marketing Manager for an airline until I lost my job. Now I'm a freelance writer and photographer's assistant," the plea for money should be lowered from $500 to something more like $50.
Secondly: Someone in the ranks needs to come up with better follow-up to the response, "I'm sorry, I can't donate right now." Perhaps, "Okay, well, be sure to visit our annual fund website to track our progress and observe the practical benefits of the drive." Or, "I see you live in the Denver Metro area. Are you in touch with the local Alumni Association?"
Because for 4 years, I was an extremely productive member of the student body. I worked my work study job, I was on the board of my extra-curricular activities, I made all the Honors Societies I was supposed to make, I volunteered for this, that, and the other, and I did my part to keep the GPA average up. Now you only reach out to me when you want money, and when I tell you I can't give, you have nothing else to say to me?
Never mind that I'm still eking out monthly payments to pay off my student loans. I'm still proud to be a graduate of your institution. I just can't fork over $500 to you right now. But I can meet with local prospective students or write for your newsletter or website or take a raincheck on donating my rent. Just give me another option, please?


  1. This is so interesting to read because I'm currently slogging away on just such a telephone campaign for my college at Cambridge as I write. Truly, truly, soul-destroying. Fortunately, we have a very anal and pernickity, but thorough boss who makes sure we read a script giving people options to be "future donors" and keep receiving stuff from the college. :/ But on the downside, he gets annoyed if you speak to people whose wife just died and you don't keep asking them for money. Like the Tin Man, except he doesn't want a heart!!
    And was that Italian I see??!xx

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  3. Villanova has called me a number of times over the past few weeks -- the first of which I picked up. I was busy at work, so I asked if I could return their call, and like you said, they didn't have a way for me to do that. Since then they've called back a number of times during business hours, but don't seem to leave messages. Until they figure this out, I'll continue donating my piano fingers on Sundays.

    Bad strategy aside, I think the recent mailing with the graduated donation levels based on class year (I think it goes back to 2000) is a good way to try and get us youngins involved.

  4. Chesley, perhaps this is a new career for you? "Director of Alumni Giving. You seem to have some very useful ideas.