Natural disaster relief campaigns and presidential election fund raising may have convinced some Yale alumni to contribute to causes other than their alma mater, but in spite of the decrease in donors, the fund is still on track for a banner year, development officials said.
Between July 1, 2004 and the end of January, the Yale Alumni Fund received about $14 million from around 33,000 alumni and Yale College parents. With 450 fewer donors this year, the University managed to raise almost $1.1 million more than it raised during the same period of time last year, Alumni Fund managing director Bobbi Mark ’76 said.
Mark said undergraduates who call alumni and ask them for gifts are adjusting to different technology this year, which may have contributed to the “statistically insignificant” decrease in donors. She also said the development office for the first time began soliciting to a base of 120,000 alumni and parents with not-for-profit mail stamps, which is saving the University over $20,000 annually but could have delayed donor responses.
But the donor shortfall is not a long-term problem, Mark said. She said an increase in stock gifts to the University have improved the alumni fund’s prospects for the rest of the fiscal year.
“We expect to end the year with lots more dollars and more donors than we did last year,” she said.
There has also been a recent push in the development office to recruit and support alumni volunteers, who solicit donations on behalf of Yale, throughout the country, Acting Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill said. Mark said volunteers have been making their development work personalized, often sending letters to people they knew at Yale with attached handwritten notes.
“There has been a conscious effort to clarify the message of the annual fund and to strengthen the volunteering network,” O’Neill said.
These improvements come at a time when the stock market is climbing and alumni have been more likely to donate their stock holdings directly to the University, Mark said. Many alumni have found it more cost-efficient to transfer their appreciated stock options directly to the University because laws permit donors to do so without paying taxes on their earnings.
Myles Campbell ’06, who works in the development office calling Yale graduates for donations, said many alumni told him they had not exhausted their available funds on the presidential election and relief efforts for tsunami victims. Many alumni expressed an interest in making future donations to Yale, he said.
William Hardt, director of the office of annual giving at Princeton University, where dollars are flowing in at a slower rate than they were at this time last year, said he does not see the decrease at Princeton as a new trend. There are always events that pull donors’ attention in different directions, he said.
“I think in any given year, there are always events of various kinds that weave in and out of the environment, so whether those are more significant than the issues in other years is hard to say,” he said.
Unlike next year’s capital campaign, which will fund specific Yale projects such as the implementation of the 2003 undergraduate academic review, the alumni fund supports general University operations such as tuition, financial aid and facility maintenance. Budget officials monitor the fund closely but will not be able to tell how the alumni fund impacts next year’s budget until later this year, Deputy Provost for Undergraduate and Graduate Facilities Lloyd Suttle said.
“So much of the alumni fund is received at the end of the fiscal year, at the reunion,” Suttle said. “My guess is that it would be a while before we’d even know this.”