The class of 2010 is on track to be the most generous senior class Yale has seen yet, according to Jack Thomas ’80, vice chairman of the Alumni Fund.
Since the Senior Class Gift Campaign kicked off Jan. 26, 37 percent of the senior class has donated a total of $14,306.30, as of Thursday. At this point last year, 17 percent of the class of 2009 had donated, according to Karri Brady, director of Yale College Annual Giving. Brady said the leadership of this year’s Seniors Class Gift Committee chairs has improved the participation rate.
During the Senior Class Gift Campaign, a committee of seniors raises money to contribute to the Yale Alumni Fund over the course of three weeks, asking each member of the class to contribute at least $5. Olivia Wheeler ’10, co-chair of the Senior Class Gift Committee, said the purpose of the campaign is to encourage seniors to stay connected to the University and contribute to Yale even after they graduate.
“Senior class giving is especially important to Yale because these gifts are unrestricted,” Provost Peter Salovey said in an e-mail. “They can be put toward the most important Yale College priorities. And in this budget climate, that is extremely helpful.”
With the current budget crisis, Brady added, these immediate needs are financial aid and faculty support. Most of the money from the senior campaign goes to items that benefit students, such as financial aid and library funds, she said.
Wheeler said that in addition to surpassing last year’s participation rate and amount donated, she also hopes the 2010 gift campaign will bring the seniors together. Wheeler said running the campaign for three weeks, as opposed to all year, will contribute to this unification. She said the campaign is not intended to be a constant annoyance for seniors throughout the year, but an enjoyable three weeks to come together as a class.
She added that she thinks the two captains of the senior class gift in the residential colleges, as well as the 10 agents the captains pick in each college, all help to personalize the process.
Brady attributed the early success of this year’s senior class gift to the personal atmosphere that Wheeler and her co-chair, Drew Rowny ’10 have created.
“The character of this class is very social, warm and friendly,” Brady said. “[Wheeler and Rowny] recruited their volunteers early and got right out of the gate with a lovely opening event in the President’s Room in Woolsey Hall where they invited guests.”
The social events in honor of the Senior Class Gift were held throughout the campaign’s first two weeks and will continue into the third week. Each residential college’s master has hosted or will host a happy hour, and there will be a pre-game tailgate at Bulldog Burrito for Friday’s Yale-Harvard basketball game, Wheeler said.
In addition to social events, a Senior Class Gift video, scholarship opportunities and matching donation offer from an anonymous donor have all helped to contribute to the class of 2010’s early success, Thomas said. The donor has pledged to match the donation of the senior class gift if the seniors surpass the class of 2009 either in donations or participation by the end of the three-week campaign, Thomas said.
Matt Bakal ’10 wrote, produced and directed the video in which a senior who has not donated is pressured by students and even by Salovey to participate in the fundraising campaign.
“The Senior Class Gift video combines my love for making movies with my newfound appreciation for what Yale has done for me,” Bakal said.
The video is intended to inform seniors of what the Alumni Fund does, as well as to entertain seniors amid the slew of e-mails and information they receive about the class gift, Bakal said. Salovey said he watched the video on YouTube on Sunday, and found it “spectacular and frightening, all at the same time!”
An additional incentive for seniors to donate are two $10,000 one-year scholarships that will go to the two residential colleges with the highest participation and the most monetary donations. The colleges will award the scholarships to one incoming freshman in their college. The money for the scholarships comes from the Parent’s Fund, Thomas said.
Since the seniors have benefitted from the donations of alumni who preceded them, it is sensible that they return the favor, Wheeler said. But in a guest column in Friday’s News (“Gift campaign goes for broke” Feb. 5, 2010) Chandler Coggins ’10 argued that asking all seniors to donate is awkward for students of lesser means.
“I’d much rather attend a Yale more welcoming to disadvantaged students than one with a higher undergraduate giving percentage,” Coggins wrote. “And no pitch from the Development Office is going to convince me that collecting five dollars from every poor senior will help accomplish the former.”
Brady said she thinks people will give within their means, and that the campaign leaders understood such situations might arise.
As of last Thursday, Davenport College was in the lead for residential college participation, with 61 percent. Jonathan Edwards College led in total contributions, with $2,076.20.