Members of the Class of 2009 are opening up their wallets this month — despite an ailing economy — so they can make their first donations to Yale as part of the Senior Class Gift.

As of Wednesday, with less than one week to go in the three-week campaign that ends next Tuesday, the class had raised nearly $15,000 through donations from around 40 percent of seniors. Development officials said it should be no problem, then, to meet their goal of $20,000 raised and 60 percent participation.

But the seniors in charge of this year’s Class Gift have more ambitious aims. They want to break the record of 83 percent participation.

“We’re in good shape, but we’re trying to do more than anyone ever has,” said Evan Leitner ’09, the co-chair of this year’s Senior Class Gift. “So we have to get quite a few hundred seniors to give this weekend.”

If last year’s performance is any bellwether of things to come, Leitner and co-chair Maggie Goodlander ’09 (along with more than 120 seniors who volunteered to ask their friends for contributions) may still be in good shape. The Class of 2008 had only secured gifts from 20 percent of seniors heading into the final weekend, even though they ended up with 74 percent participation.

To help encourage seniors to give, Chief Investment Officer David Swensen will be the guest of honor at a cocktail party on Saturday — Valentine’s Day — to which all seniors who have donated at least $20.09 will be invited.

Even still, Yale’s fundraisers emphasized that it is not the size of a senior’s gift that matters most. Lynn Andrewsen ’82, who oversees alumni annual giving for the Development Office, said the Senior Class Gift is important because it helps instill a sense of duty to Yale among graduates.

“It may seem like a small amount of money,” she said, “but it’s very much about encouraging Yale seniors to give back to Yale. And we’re trying to tell the story of how important giving is to everyone’s Yale education.”

In order to spread awareness of the impact that donations have at Yale, this year’s seniors also started a video competition to help promote the Senior Class Gift. Felicia Resor ’09 and Xander Diminitz ’09 were named winners of that competition.

Ironically, Resor and Diminitz hail from two of three residential colleges with the lowest participation rate thus far in the campaign. Saybrook College, home of Diminitz and more than a hundred other seniors, has raised less than $700 from just over 20 percent of its class. Jonathan Edwards College has raised nearly $1,100 from 30 percent of its seniors.

As of press time Wednesday, Ezra Stiles College was in the lead for both participation and dollars raised, with two-thirds of its seniors combining to donate a total of nearly $2,000.

If Stiles can remain ahead in participation, one member of the college’s Class of 2013 will be awarded a $10,000 scholarship for his or her freshman year as an award for the college’s generosity to the Senior Class Gift.

And if more than 83 percent of seniors do make a gift by Tuesday — thereby breaking the previous record for participation — the impact of the class’s gift will double. One alumnus has pledged to match each dollar raised by the class if it clears that threshold for participation.

With a dollar-for-dollar match, there is no doubt that the class would then exceed the Class of 2007’s record of $27,630 raised.