Wednesday was the kick-off event for the Senior Class Campaign, a division of the Partners in Annual Giving program, which encourages alumni to donate money to St. Olaf. The Senior Class Campaign, led this year by Erin Mercer 06 and Brian Collins 06, began in 1993 as a way to increase the giving rates of graduating seniors and to educate them about the importance of their philanthropy.
Campaign organizers hope to help seniors understand how important annual giving is to the life of the college. The money gathered during the annual giving campaign collects in the general fund, which is used within the fiscal year not only to help the campus run smoothly, but also to lower the annual tuition by $7,000.
Alumni giving is also important to the college in other ways that many students may not realize. The percentage of alumni who donate is used by outside institutions as a way of gauging the satisfaction with and success of St. Olaf when assigning rankings or awarding grants.
"The goal of the Senior Campaign is to educate seniors so when they make more money they will continue giving back," Mercer said.
St. Olaf lags behind other similar colleges in rates of alumni giving. St. Olafs overall annual alumni giving rate is just 35 percent, while schools such as Carleton College see rates as high as 66 percent. The Senior Class Campaign was conceived as a way to remedy this lack of giving in the future.
While fundraising is often seen as an investment in others, Doug Smith 85, president of the Alumni Association, reminded the class of 2006 that "investment in the Annual Campaign is making an investment in yourself."
Collins 06 stressed the importance of giving. "Its not about the amount you donate," he said, but the act of donation that counts.
Smith described donating as a "tangible sign of participation in the ongoing life of the school." Pledging a donation, Mercer said, is a way of "continuing to support the future Oles, because weve been supported for four years."
The class of 2005 set the record for senior giving last year with 83 percent participation. The campaign co-chairs said they hope to beat that record by reaching 84 percent participation.
In addition to this incentive, a challenge has been issued by the class of 1981, which hopes to reach 50 percent participation, which would be the highest among the alumni classes. They also hope to raise $81,000.
President Christopher Thomforde encouraged the senior class to determine an amount they could pledge over the next five years. He encouraged giving "as a way of giving a signal of your satisfaction of your education at St. Olaf."
Approximately 370 seniors pledged donations at the kick-off event Wednesday, so the Senior Class Campaign is well on its way to its goal. Pledges can be made online any time at http://www.stolaf.edu/giving/forms/senior pledge.html.