In the past two weeks, Colorado College alumni have demonstrated their CC-developed talents and passions. The showing of films by passionate CC grads, Valhalla and Reel Rock 8, clearly showed that CC’s continued support for its students affects both its graduates’ extracurricular predilections as well as their eventual career choices.
CC alumni, despite demonstrating strong affection for the school, are reluctant to empty their wallets for their alma mater.
According to campus officials, alumni express interest in donating to the institutions that helped their own personal development at CC, but tend to be more reticent than they initially purport.
CC alumni in a variety of fields express how their college experience helped mold their successes.
“When I’m doing films, I still work on the Block Plan,” said Josh Lowell of Reel Rock in his First Monday presentation. “I work super intense for a couple weeks, relax, then work again.”
With such a positive response from most alumni, why is it that only a select few alumni donate to CC after graduation?
Nathan Lee, a graduate in the class of 2013 who studied alumni giving for his economics thesis, found that only 18.5 percent of alumni donated money in 2012 while other small liberal arts colleges like Carleton College boast a staggering 58.2 percent.
Lee now works in the office of advancement focusing on raising money from young alums.
“It’s puzzling that CC has such disconnect between the high affinity that alumni feel for the institution and the relatively low giving,” said Mark Hille, CC’s Associate Vice President for Advancement. “Most often, these two move in tandem.”
Right now, the Annual Fund section of the Development Office reaches out to alumni through a major gift team and a mass team for small gifts. The major gift team contacts people with record of having the financial capabilities to give larger gifts.
In fact, 90 percent of the total value of gifts received is from 10 percent of the donors, most of whom are included in this demographic. The mass team for small gifts carries out the phone-a-thon, sends out mass mailings, and oversees the student-calling center.
Despite these efforts, most recently the CC versus DU Alumni Challenge in which the rival schools compete to see who can amass 1500 alumni donors first, the Development Office has found that from the Class of 1993 onwards, less than 15 percent of alumni have donated.
Hille admits that CC has to improve its connectivity to alumni in their cities and phases of life.
“Fifty years ago, homecoming drew all the alumni back in,” he said. “Now, we need something else.”
What exactly is that something else?
Lee’s report shows that the top three reasons alumni are most likely to donate are if the money goes towards student scholarships, the library, or student/faculty research.
However, money from alumni giving does go to those three recipients.
“The money goes to the things on the margin of the budget that are exceptional enhancements to student experience,” Hille said. “These include international travel, internship opportunities, et cetera.”
Few alumni seem to recognize that their predecessors play a large part in subsidizing their education.
So why not repay the school and the people that helped pave their path?
“A lot of what I see coming is a more consistent and aggressive approach towards donations,” says Hille. “Our goal is not necessarily to transform the institution, but rather to put money where the heart is.”
Elizabeth Forster, Guest Writer