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Senior Gift campaign reinvigorates alumni donations

As the 2013-2014 school year draws to a close, Stanford seniors are confronted with the question of what it means to be an alumnus. Central to this new identity is the question of how alumni will give back to their alma mater. Although some undergraduates may see donation requests as a nuisance, the efforts of a small team of students and staff have aimed to recast young alumni giving as a gesture of gratitude through the Senior Gift.

The Senior Gift committee, co-chaired by 12 seniors, released its promotional video this past Tuesday, May 27, signaling the reinvigoration of fundraising efforts into the beginning of June.

“Last year, over 86 percent of seniors made a Senior Gift,” said Felicity Meu, Senior Associate Director of the Stanford Fund. Meu, who specializes in student and young alumni development, emphasized that office’s goal of increasing participation this year.

Dan Ashton ’14, a co-chair of the Senior Gift committee, expressed confidence that this target would be hit by the close of his senior year.

“Currently, between 60 and 70 percent of our class has donated to Senior Gift,” he said.

Ashton explained that stakes are particularly high this year as far as recruiting more donors.

“The Bing family has promised an extra $25,000 contribution if we can get to 75 percent before early June,” he said.

Senior Gift contributions are already matched 3:1 by various donors.

Both Ashton and fellow co-chair Billy Gallagher ’14 described diverse approaches to encouraging seniors to give to Senior Gift. Aside from employing social media and email messages, the committee held a wine tasting in Frost Amphitheater and has hosted giveaways and other fundraising events in addition to personal outreach efforts.

Many of the funds donated to the Senior Gift go toward financial aid, something both emphasized as a key reason to donate.

Ashton noted that he feels a special connection to the mission of Senior Gift, “given that I’m on a large amount of financial aid myself.”

Both Gallagher and Ashton acknowledged the mentorship and hard work of Meu’s office and the guidance of Nora Martin ’12, assistant director of student and young alumni development.

Meu and Martin’s jobs hardly stop after Senior Gift wraps up for the quarter, however. Afterwards, the team spends much of their time on the road recruiting young alumni across the nation.

“The first year out, contribution is generally between 20 and 30 percent of the graduating class,” Meu said. “This extends up until the fifth reunion, when it generally spikes to up to 35 percent participation.”

She cited the exceptional Class of 2007, which had a 48 percent donation rate following its fifth reunion.

In Meu’s estimation, the profile of a typical young alumni donor “really runs the gamut.”

“It’s generally someone who our office has engaged with on campus, and who believes in the mission of Stanford,” she said.

She has not seen a correlation between socioeconomic status before and after Stanford and propensity to give. Further, an alum’s major does not have an effect on the tendency to donate.

Ashton summed up the efforts, noting that “Senior Gift is an awesome opportunity to give back and reflect on how meaningful Stanford has been.”

 

Contact Shubha Raghvendra at sraghven ‘at’ stanford.edu.