Senior class gift wraps up

Donations to the senior class gift closed at midnight on Wednesday, with 96.6 percent of seniors contributing to the University.

Wednesday evening marked the end of the intense annual three-week effort to solicit contributions from members of the senior class. The Class of 2014 raised over $31,000 for the Yale Alumni Fund, an unrestricted pool of money that is used to cover financial aid and other costs at the University. The minimum gift was $5, and the suggested amount was $20.14.

But the total amount raised is of little importance to Yale’s bank account, which receives donations orders of magnitude larger on a regular basis. Rather, the senior class gift focuses on establishing a pattern of giving amongst students as they transition into being alumni.

“It’s an important part of helping people understand what it means to become donors to the University,” said Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill.

Many of the 1,600 alumni volunteers who are engaged in fundraising for the Yale Alumni Fund were leaders in their own senior class gifts, according to Managing Director of Alumni Fund Development Lynn Andrewsen ’82.

University Development officers and student leaders alike said the senior class gift campaign is more focused on participation than the sum of donations.

This year’s participation rate marks a half-point increase over last year’s. In the past 10 years, only two other classes — those of 2011 and 2012 — had higher participation rates.

Florian Koenigsberger ’14, who served as one of four co-chairs for the gift campaign, said that less than 48 hours before the end of giving, the participation rate hovered around 70 percent.

“I think it’s spectacular given where we were a couple of days ago,” Koenigsberger said. “A lot of people really gave this thought in the last 48 hours and decided that this was something important to be a part of.”

Because more than 95 percent of the class participated in the gift, an anonymous donor will give $100,000 in scholarship funds for study abroad. Furthermore, each residential college that had a participation rate north of 95 percent will be honored with a $10,000 one-year scholarship to be presented to an incoming freshman in the fall.

In addition to the other matching incentives, a young alumnus of Jonathan Edwards College also provides dollar-for-dollar matching funds if the college exceeds a 97 percent participation rate, according to Assistant Program Coordinator for Graduate & Professional School Annual Giving Development AmandaLee Aponte. This year, the college met that requirement.

The Development Office also incentivizes students to give to the senior class gift. Those who donate $100 or more are invited to a reception at the New York headquarters of Chanel hosted by Chanel CEO Maria Chiquet and Gilt Groupe Founder Kevin Ryan. Both Chiquet and Ryan serve on the Yale Corporation, the University’s highest governing body.

The senior class gift is an unusual collaboration between students and the Development Office, which is responsible for Yale’s overall fundraising operation. The gift is technically a portion of the annual giving department of the Development Office, according to Andrewsen. Although the student co-chairs are responsible for designing the campaign logo and recruiting other students, the Development Office provides the co-chairs with training and helps implement their ideas.

The co-chairs are also connected with the chairman of the Yale Alumni Fund, who provides further advice on fundraising.

The class of 2013 raised a total of $29,693.

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