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ISSUE 117 VOL 14 PUBLISHED 3/19/2004

Alumni giving refines goals

By Emelie Heltsley
Staff Writer


Friday, March 19, 2004

With a week full of midterms, papers and projects, Spring Break beginning on Friday, and the end of the school year just around the corner, the last thing most students are thinking about is becoming an alum and giving money to St. Olaf. Alumni Giving and Senior Giving, however, allow students and alumni to continue making an impact on St. Olaf long after graduation, and their giving affects all students, past, present and future.

Monetary gifts from seniors and alumni go into the colleges "unrestricted" Annual Giving fund. St. Olafs Partners in Annual Giving web page defines annual giving as "gifts to the college that are made  and spent  within one fiscal or budget year."

This money does not go to one specific department or program, but rather to where it is needed most. In the past, gifts have funded scholarships, international study programs, research projects, library resources and operating costs.

Contributing to the Annual Giving fund, instead of giving a specific gift, allows seniors to make an immediate difference in helping the school financially.

"Most senior classes give objects to the school, like trees, benches, carpet or statues," said Brian Senske '04, co-chair of the Senior Giving Campaign. "Those gifts are too specific."

As of March 17, 70 percent of seniors have given to the fund, up from 52 percent of last years class, making the class of 2004 a record-breaking one.

"One of our goals was to involve the whole class," Sarah Goldthwait '04, co-chair of the Senior Giving Campaign, said. "We didnt want this to be a popularity contest or a drive for one friendship group."

Before starting their campaign, Senske and Goldthwait decided to form an all-inclusive committee of 45 seniors to reach every member of the senior class, and to make sure all were welcome. T-shirts were given to all do-nors.

"We want to be visible around campus," Senske said.

Another strategy was downplaying the actual monetary value of gifts and emphasizing participation. By asking for $5 a year for three years this senior campaign aimed to raise the percentage of seniors who choose to give.

Other strategies included educating people and proving transparency of funds.

"They need to know why their money is important," Senske said.

Goldthwait agreed.

"They need to know where their money is going," she said.

So far, their strategies have worked.

"This is a way for the senior class to rally together," Senske said. "We need to show what were about as a class and as part of the St. Olaf community."

Alumni Giving as a whole, currently at 38 percent, has grown significantly since last year.

"But were still not where wed like to be," Director of Advancement Mari Aylin said. "This senior class has had tremendous success with their giving campaign, and its awesome. Thirty years from now, well be in a different place thanks to big participation from senior classes."

Goals for the Alumni Giving Com-mittee include bringing the alumni giving rate up to 50 percent. The Senior Giving Campaign would like to see 500 pledges. Both Senior and Alumni Gi-ving stressed that their campaigns continue, and that all gifts are appreciated.

Alumni and seniors are asked to help "Close the Gap" between giving at St. Olaf and giving at other schools, such as Carleton and Grinnell.

Some St. Olaf students ask why they should bother giving to the college, wondering what $5, $20 or $100 can do when compared to the millions of dollars used to build the new Science Center, Tostrud or Buntrock.

"Every gift matters," Aylin said. For every donation, whether it is $5 or $5,000, the percentage of givers rises. She said that higher percentages of givers means high satisfaction levels, and high satisfaction levels makes St. Olaf eligible for various grants and other money.

Aylin, Senske and Goldthwait all stressed a need to change how St. Olaf students and alumni view giving.

"Wed like St. Olaf to have a culture of giving," Senske said, "and we can help create that."

Many schools with high alumni giving percentages have an obvious giving culture.

"Students know that they will give after graduation," Aylin said.

Current St. Olaf alumni do support the school, as shown by lowered tuition. Even with next years raised prices, students will not pay full tuition  about $7,000 per student is covered by donations and monies from the Annual Giving fund.





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