Though the School of Management reported a slight decrease in the overall participation rate in its alumni fund for fiscal year 2012, the school has maintained high levels of alumni participation over the past 10 years in comparison to peer institutions.
The SOM’s alumni fund raised roughly $1.5 million during fiscal year 2012, and over 44 percent of alumni made donations — down from roughly 49 percent in the 2011 fiscal year. With over 40 percent of SOM alumni participating in the alumni fund each year over the past 10 fiscal years, the school has the second-highest alumni participation rate among U.S. business schools after Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, where participation exceeded 70 percent last year. SOM administrators and alumni interviewed said alumni keep donating to the school because the small class sizes enable students to forge lasting relationships with one another, professors and administrators.
“Alumni giving at SOM is strong first and foremost because the school is a mission-driven organization, so even though the school has gone through changes over the years and will continue to do so, people experience the school in a deep way,” SOM Dean Edward Snyder said.
Joel Getz, SOM senior associate dean for development and alumni relations, said the 5 percent decrease in the last fiscal year may be because more alumni chose to give to the dean’s priorities fund instead of the alumni fund following the arrival of Snyder in June 2011, or because alumni wanted to donate directly toward SOM’s new campus, which is slated to open in January 2014. The school’s participation goal is 50 percent, Getz said, adding that SOM is on track to top 50 percent in fiscal year 2013, after raising roughly $1 million through January 2013.
In an effort to reach out to alumni, Snyder traveled to different states and countries during his first year as dean, and Getz said Snyder’s in-person meetings with alumni increased their interest in donating to the school.
“[Snyder] was willing to get on a plane and go around the country and the world to meet with and speak to alumni,” Getz said. “One of the things he has been very focused on is getting across some of our concrete aspirations to alumni and clarifying the mission of the school. I do ultimately think that fundraising is, to a great degree, a contact sport.”
Getz said alumni are consistently drawn to donate to SOM because they get to know the faculty and administrators well due to the school’s small student body, which currently stands at roughly 450 students. Harvard Business School’s class of 2012 included 880 students.
Getz and Director of the SOM Alumni Fund Cynthia Sacramone said this year, the school is piloting a new alumni fundraising initiative, which will focus on soliciting donations from alumni during class reunions.
“Reunion years are special, exciting years, and we want to use that as an opportunity to enlist more volunteers and get more people to think more about the school and hopefully lift their total participation,” Getz said.
SOM Assistant Director for Reunion Giving Basie Gitlin ’10, who will lead the reunion giving program, said the initiative aims to spread a “come back, give back” mentality among alumni, adding that SOM’s reunion program needs a stronger emphasis on fundraising.
Mark Tuckerman SOM ’78 said SOM students benefit from the low student-faculty ratio, adding that there is a lot of attention paid to individual SOM students, which results in a shared “class mentality.”
“At a smaller school, you get a lot of interaction with a much larger percentage of the students and professors, so it becomes more important to support it,” Tuckerman said.
SOM is planning to increase its student body to roughly 600 by fiscal year 2017.