Senior class gives more than ever

Five residential colleges achieved 100 percent participation in the 2011 Senior Class Gift Campaign. The campaign raised over $40,000, a record.
Five residential colleges achieved 100 percent participation in the 2011 Senior Class Gift Campaign. The campaign raised over $40,000, a record. Photo by Jordi Gassó.

The 2011 Senior Class Gift Campaign is the most successful one in its 14-year history.

While final tallies are expected Friday, preliminary numbers show that this year’s three-week campaign raised over $40,000 in donations and achieved more than 97 percent class participation — more than any previous class since the tradition began in 1997. Haley Cohen ’11 and Tully McLoughlin ’11, the campaign co-chairs, attributed their success to a motivated class and a carefully thought-out fundraising strategy.

Senior Class Gift
Senior Class Gift

Although the campaign’s goal was 100 percent participation, Cohen and McLoughlin said they are not disappointed by the final numbers.

“We’re trying to see the glass as 97 percent full,” Cohen said.

To add to the campaign’s success, an anonymous donor who had previously offered to give $100,000 to financial aid for study abroad programs if full class participation was achieved decided to donate the money anyway, they added.

The 2011 results are part of an upward trend in giving and participation since 2009. For the class of 2010, fundraising resulted in a grand total of $29,670 in collected donations with 91 percent class participation.

“The class of 2010 set the standards pretty high,” said Jocelyn Polce, assistant director of the Yale Alumni Fund.

The co-chairs said they made several departures from previous methods that may have contributed to their success. Cohen said the 2011 campaign was the first to have a specific theme: the slogan “Yes We Dan” with an original Handsome Dan logo. This brand helped keep up seniors’ energy throughout the process, McLoughlin said.

Cohen said the volunteer team focused on publicity this year to keep their class engaged. Polce said 160 seniors volunteered with the campaign this year, compared to 133 in 2010.

But the campaign presented a number of challenges as well. The co-chairs said their attempts to communicate the campaign’s purpose and goals to their classmates were sometimes misunderstood as pushiness. At times, they said, their excitement about the possibility of reaching 100 percent participation were interpreted as harassment.

Some seniors interviewed raised personal concerns about the Senior Class Gift Campaign. For example, several said they believe that an institution as wealthy as Yale does not need their money, while others said they plan to give to the University some day, but do not feel in a position to do so as graduating seniors.

One student who did not donate, Gant Elmore ’11, said he made the choice because of what he saw as University President Richard Levin’s “bias against recruited athletes.” Elmore, a varsity baseball player, argued that throughout Levin’s time at Yale, the president has deliberately tried to reduce the number of recruited athletes. Elmore said he has decided not to give to Yale until that trend is reversed.

Cohen said it was sometimes hard for volunteers to tell which seniors were not donating because of ideological reasons and which just hadn’t gotten around to it and needed a reminder.

2010 Campaign co-chair Olivia Wheeler ’10 said she experienced many of the same difficulties attempting to win over people who were adamantly against donating, and called the 97 percent participation rate “uncanny.” She added that although her class did not reach the 97 percent bar set by 2011, she was not disappointed by the results of the campaign she led.

Of the 41 students who did not donate, some were “hard to reach” from a fundraising perspective, McLoughlin said. For example, volunteers had to work harder to get in touch with transfer students, people who took a gap year and students who live off campus.

Five residential colleges — Calhoun, Ezra Stiles, Jonathan Edwards, Saybrook and Silliman — reached 100 percent participation.

Ben Prawdzik contributed reporting.

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