Explaining the 2010 Senior Class Gift

By Paul Odegaard

The process to recruit the Senior Class Gift Committee begins every September with a combination of efforts and involves the campus community. Macalester’s faculty, provost, and senior staff members are solicited for student recommendations. Recruiting messages are also publicized in the Daily Piper and in the senior email listserv, and seniors who have or are currently working in the Annual Fund office are asked to participate. The committee is always open to new members throughout the year, and typically comprises about 10-15 seniors that come from recommendations and self-selection.Last week, The Mac Weekly’s staff editorialized that although it doesn’t make sense to fill the campus with physical gifts, “this shouldn’t prevent the class from leaving a legacy through the establishment of a scholarship, an activity fund, or some other financial donation that could bear the class’s name.” Macalester’s thresholds for fully funding programmatic or scholarship funds begin at $100,000. The Senior Class Gift’s constituency of students, parents, faculty, and staff members varies from year to year and makes the likelihood of raising the minimum threshold unlikely. If the campaign began and didn’t reach the threshold, those un-realized funds would join other under-funded initiatives in suspense, so the college would not receive any benefit from them.

“It always seems like an epic struggle to get seniors to donate in the spring.” The authors closed by musing that more seniors may give if they feel more ownership over the process and direction of their Senior Class Gift. Senior donor participation in their Class Gift has grown each of the last five years, setting a new participation record each year. From 2005 on, the results show that more people give to projects that provide the greatest immediate benefit to Macalester. As the allocation of each year’s Senior Class Gift became less tangible and more institutionally focused, the seniors responded by getting more involved and setting new participation records. Ownership can be intangible.

The swell of senior participation, 54 percent last year, dwarfed not only broader alumni participation, but was featured in the Macalester Advancement Report, and inspired inquiries from peer institutions, the LA Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education. The success of the 2009 campaign did make a large impact on campus, highlighted during Macalester’s Awards Convocation during Reunion. Multiple generations of our alumni were moved by a check presentation showing the progress and outpouring of student support. More than $34,000 was raised for the Annual Fund from the 2009 Senior Class Gift by students, parents, faculty, and staff.

Although the Annual Fund doesn’t seem like a sexy gift for graduating seniors, its success and utility leave the best legacy for future Macalester generations and inspire the alumni they are joining to also give back. Alumni marvel at the generosity of students graduating into a world of loans and uncertain employment prospects, thinking, “If they can do it, I can too.”

With an uncertain economy, the best gift any non-profit can receive, including Macalester, is an unrestricted gift to its general budget or Annual Fund. Most donors want their gifts to represent their values and make a difference. An Annual Fund gift is the great equalizer for all Macalester students and alumni because everyone has benefitted from the Annual Fund, and everyone has the opportunity and ability to participate with a gift of any size. These gifts provide the institution with the greatest benefit because they allow the administration the flexibility to meet all its core needs.

People tend to give to provide the greatest good for the communities they care about. That’s no different at Macalester with the Annual Fund.

Paul Odegaard ’04 is the Advancement liaison to the Senior Class Gift Committee and can be reached at [email protected] To learn more about the Annual Fund, visit http://www.macalester.edu/development/annualfund.