I am writing in response to Matt Day’s article about the college “donation arms race.” After digesting his opinion piece, it became clear to me that there is some misunderstanding about why the Annual Fund exists.
We ask our alumni to give back to the college. Alumni participation in giving is both a symbol and a strong indicator of alumni satisfaction with their student experience. Last month, President Rosenberg met with a grantor at the Hearst Foundation and one of the questions asked of him was “What is your alumni participation in giving?” The grantor asked because, like other potential big donors, they want to know that they aren’t the entire foundation of support. Being a sole funder of an organization is risky and gives the impression that an organization is unstable. Alumni participation is a quantifiable indicator of one’s satisfaction with their student experience. The assumption is that if you loved your college experience, then you will want to support it, even if it’s just the $5 or $10 that you can afford.
We ask our community for donations because the college needs the funds to pay for important things like financial aid, faculty salaries, staff to clean dorm rooms—the list goes on. Tuition doesn’t cover the full cost for an individual student to attend Mac, even if they’re paying the full sticker price (which fewer than 25% of students are). Over 11,000 people gave to the Annual Fund last year. The average gift was just over $100. All of these gifts, large and small, add up to make a difference here at Mac.
Mr. Day raises the concern about the number of solicitations being excessive. While I can empathize with his concern, Macalester’s strategy and persistence are not out of the ordinary. I attend a yearly meeting of Annual Fund Directors from colleges like Macalester, where we compare our strategies and solicitations with each other. I was surprised to learn that Macalester fell far below the average number of solicitations, particularly through direct mail. We continue to send less direct mail and more email in part because mail is expensive, and we owe it to our donors and students to be mindful of these costs.
There are two ways to stop solicitations from Macalester. You can 1) make a gift early in the fiscal year, which starts June 1. We very rarely ask our alumni for a second gift in a year. If you are a Sustainer and give monthly, we essentially don’t solicit you at all. Or, if you feel your Macalester experience doesn’t merit your support, you can 2) simply ask to be removed. Whether one chooses to give or not, I feel it’s important for our alumni to know that Macalester continues to invest in students once they’ve become alumni—a lifelong subscription to the Macalester Today, special events (many of which are at no-cost to the alum), the MacWire and library access serve as examples.
The Annual Fund is here because we want Macalester to thrive and to be here forever. We want Macalester to continue to be generous with financial aid and to be a place where faculty and staff feel valued so that the student experience here can be the best in the country.
Danielle Nelson ‘05
Director of the Annual Fund