Class gifts underway at professional schools

Class gift campaigns are in their initial stages at Yale’s professional schools. Yale College’s senior class gift broke a participation record this year, though the total amount raised dropped from 2011.
Class gift campaigns are in their initial stages at Yale’s professional schools. Yale College’s senior class gift broke a participation record this year, though the total amount raised dropped from 2011. Photo by Daniel Sisgoreo.

Though Yale College’s senior class gift campaign ended in late February, similar campaigns at the University’s professional schools are only beginning, and will last until Commencement.

Yale College’s class of 2012 beat the class gift participation record for the fourth consecutive year by collecting donations from 97.5 percent of students to raise more than $31,000. While Yale College’s class gift campaigns have seen high student participation in recent years, student involvement in campaigns at other Yale schools has historically varied, with some receiving 100 percent participation and others struggling to maintain 60 percent. Development administrators and student coordinators of gift campaigns said the ultimate goal of the class gifts is to encourage students to think about donating before they leave the University.

“You want the classmates … to make gifts that they feel comfortable with at a time when their futures are still somewhat uncertain and their earnings are nowhere near what their peak will be,” said Joel Getz, SOM senior associate dean for development and alumni relations. “It’s hopefully the beginning of 50 or more gifts that these people will be giving.”

Every member of the SOM class of 2011 donated to the school, raising a total of $225,393. The Divinity School raised $10,356 with 72 percent student participation, while the Law School brought in $16,143 from 80 percent of last year’s graduating class.

Gail Briggs, director of alumni relations at the Divinity School, said she thought the differences in participation and funds raised could be attributed to variability in students’ expected post-graduation income.

“We’re creating different populations of people,” Briggs said. “Under a half of our graduates go into some sort of parish ministry so that plays some part in the size of the gifts and the means of people.”

Though professional school students donate to class gift campaigns prior to beginning their professional careers, Briggs said students in some schools have saved money from internships or previous work experience, which allows them to donate.

Even so, the professional schools are working to raise participation and increase donations from graduating classes. Briggs said part of the challenge in structuring a successful campaign is finding student leaders who can mobilize the student body.

Julie Duncan LAW ’12, who is co-chairing this year’s Law School class gift campaign, said she feels many graduate and professional school students could be averse to donating to gift campaigns because they pay their own tuition. Undergraduates, she said, are more likely to have their tuition paid by parents and thus more inclined to donate to the class gift.

“A lot of people that we talk to will say things like, ‘I already made my $150,000 donation to Yale,’” Duncan said. “It’s hard to work past comments like that sometimes.”

Duncan said her team is using several incentives to draw in donations this spring. For example, the campaign organizers are challenging Law School students’ small groups — faculty-led groups of roughly 16 students — to register 100 percent participation, she said. Any group that meets this target will be allowed to determine the use of $1,000 of the Law School’s operating budget as a reward.

Bryce Hall SOM ’12, a chair of SOM’s class gift campaign and the president of the school’s student government, said he thinks the class can top the donations record set by the class of 2011. The 2011-’12 academic year has been “transformative” for the school, Hall said, with the arrival of SOM Dean Edward Snyder and the ongoing construction of the school’s new campus generating excitement about the future of SOM and encouraging people to donate.

Hall said several SOM first-years are involved in his campaign, which will help ensure that they can lead a successful gift drive the following year. He added that the current campaign aims to raise enough money from graduating students to name a foyer in front of the school’s new auditorium.

Students who donate to class gift campaigns may earmark their donations for specific uses, or leave their funds unrestricted.

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