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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Annual Fund coming up short on goals

By Max Loos

More tough financial news for Macalester: the Annual Fund, which helps fund the school’s operating budget through donations and gifts, is not expected to meet its original goals for this year, and may have to stretch just to reach last year’s total. The Annual Fund provides the school with funds by collecting donations and gifts from alumni, parents, and friends of Macalester throughout the year. The money collected provides unrestricted funds that can be directly distributed anywhere in Macalester’s operating budget.

At the beginning of each year, a fundraising goal is set for the Annual Fund. The target for this year was originally $3.5 million.

Then the economic crisis hit.

“We are not gonna hit our goal,” said Associate Director of the Annual Fund Paul Odegaard.

According to Annual Fund Director Elissa Chaffee, donations to the Annual Fund took a hit in the Fall, when many donors did not renew their memberships by mail, and at the end of the calendar year, when many potential donors simply held off on donating.

While donations continued at a fairly normal rate for most of the year, the fund was never quite able to catch up after those two drop-offs, Chaffee said. The goal for this year has since been altered.

“I think that it will be a positive year if we maintain support” from last year, said Odegaard. Last year, the Annual Fund raised just under $3.3 million.

Chaffee confirmed that instead of increasing the amount of funds provided by the Annual Fund, as has been the case in the past few years, the new goal will be to keep donations steady from last year.

“This year, flat is the new up,” she said.

Remaining flat will continue to be a challenge, though, Chaffee said – the Annual Fund is currently running about $250,000 behind last year’s total, and the fiscal year ends May 31st.

“It’ll be a stretch,” she said.

In an effort to catch up to last year’s numbers, the Annual Fund has recently established a donation-matching agreement with Macalester’s trustees. $50,000 has been raised so far for the trustees to match, but Chaffee said that she’s looking to make it to $70,000.

The Annual Fund has also been calling on people who have already donated to do what they can to give a bit more, emphasizing that Annual Fund money will help subsidize next year’s increase in financial aid. —

It has been difficult, though, to solicit funds from a donor base facing economic hardships of its own. According to Chaffee, while while many donors have lost their jobs and cannot contribute, they still often express a desire to do so.

“If you talk to someone who’s lost their job, ‘Make that gift to the Annual Fund’ is a tough message to give,” she said.

Despite the difficulties facing her office, Chaffee was not entirely gloomy.

“Luckily, the Dow’s been up,” she said, adding that this would help to ease the fears many potential donors have about giving away their money in this economic climate. May also tends to be a good month for fundraising, she said, because many donors wait until the last minute to give.

Chaffee also said that the number of parents donating to the Annual Fund has increased this year.

“We’ve just gotta get the alums to do the same,” she said.

“We are doing our best right now,” Chafee said. “But it definitely keeps me up at night.”

Vice President for Administration and Finance David Wheaton did not say specifically how the decrease in expected funding from the Annual Fund would affect the budget.

“If we are short this year, we will need to evaluate our other sources of income and our other expenses to determine the final effect on the overall budget,” he said in an e-mail.

He also said that Macalester’s budgets are built “with some modest cushion for unexpected events,” so as long as the Annual Fund does not come up too short, it should not create too dire a budgeting crisis.

The Annual Fund serves as a source of unrestricted funding for each year’s budget, meaning that the money collected can be distributed anywhere in the budget.

“The Annual Fund is there to help the school meet its needs, wherever they may lie,” Odegaard said.

This means that Annual Fund money is used every year in any number of capacities, from supporting financial aid to helping maintain campus infrastructure. It helps fund every academic department, aids in paying faculty salaries, contributes to all campus programming.

Last year, for example Annual Fund money was used to fund the position of Sustainability Manager, an unforeseen expense that could not have been entirely covered by the year’s established budget.

“It’s the one thing that really does touch every aspect on campus,” Chaffee said. “Everyone here is basically being subsidized by the Annual Fund.

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