The Alternative Class Gift, a student-led campaign to collect donations from seniors for local and national charities, has raised slightly less than 5 percent of the funds collected by the official Senior Class Gift. Still, the four seniors leading the initiative, which will conclude Friday after three weeks, said they are pleased with the level of participation they received among the class of 2017.
As of Wednesday afternoon, the Alternative Class Gift had collected just under $850, according to Dane Underwood ’17, one of the campaign leaders. Data from the campaign’s public Venmo account shows that 27 current and former students, 21 of whom are seniors, contributed to the gift — a figure that does not include the two students who donated in person, Underwood said.
In contrast, the Senior Class Gift, an annual three-week fundraising campaign organized by the Yale Office of Development, raised $17,189 in donations, with 65.6 percent of the senior class giving back — a record low participation rate.
The Alternative Class Gift was set up a week after the Senior Class Gift campaign concluded to encourage seniors, particularly those who may have been reluctant to donate to Yale, to give money to a different charity.
“[The Alumni Fund] thinks it’s important to develop a culture of giving back within Yale’s community,” Underwood said. “Other communities that Yale students are a part of are absolutely deserving of our support as well.”
When the initiative began in February, campaign leaders recommended that students donate to any one of six nonprofit partners: Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services, HAVEN Free Clinic, Junta for Progressive Action, Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Students were also given the option of naming other charities or donating without any designation. Any unspecified contributions will be divided among the six partner organizations, according to the campaign’s Facebook page.
Still, Sarah Rose ’17 said she and the other seniors directing the Alternative Class Gift lacked the resources to compete with the Senior Class Gift. Instead of expensive wine and cheese events, Rose said the alternative class gift solely relied on email lists, posters and word-of-mouth to encourage students to give. Leaders of the Alternative Class Gift also reached out to campus political groups and Yale’s cultural houses to promote the initiative.
“Given the limits of our resources — we are four people who are all doing other things with our lives and trying to get this going at the same time — it’s been cool to see how many people we’ve been able to reach,” organizer Emily Patton ’17 said.
Seniors who donated to the Alternative Class Gift said the campaign allowed them to support deserving organizations, while at the same time express their dissatisfaction with University policy.
Fish Stark ’17, a staff columnist for the News who contributed to the alternative campaign, said he chose not to donate to the official class gift because he disagrees with how the University spends its resources. Stark said he gives back to Yale in other ways, like mentoring younger students.
Nathan Lobel ’17 said he refused to contribute to the Senior Class Gift in order to communicate his dissatisfaction with Yale, donating instead to the Alternative Class Gift to underscore his decision not to participate. And Jin Yap ’17 said he donated to the alternative gift campaign because he thought it would make a greater difference in the community.
Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway said that while he takes no issue with the concept of an Alternative Class Gift, he hopes that students will also recognize the value of contributing to the University, even in small amounts.
“My hope though is that they will also, upon reflection, think about their time at Yale and understand the way that philanthropy works at Yale as well,” Holloway said. “Without the long-standing generosity of its alumni network, Yale would be a shadow of what it is.”