In the final stretch before Yale embarks on its next major fundraising push, the Yale Alumni Fund is preparing infrastructure to support the University’s upcoming capital campaign.
This winter, the Alumni Fund will create a committee to examine how it can best contribute to capital campaign, which is likely to begin in September. The committee, which will include board members and volunteers, will likely provide input on the campaign’s structure and goals, said Alumni Fund Chairman Tom Leatherbury ’76. The group will also re-evaluate the methods it uses to collaborate with alumni volunteers to ensure that it effectively communicates the academic priorities at the center of the campaign.
“One place where the alumni fund is very valuable … is also creating volunteer opportunities and engagement opportunities both on campus and out wherever we live,” Leatherbury said. “That’s really important going into a campaign and then successfully executing the campaign is making sure that your volunteers know the priorities.”
Alumni Fund volunteers will serve as “ambassadors” to alumni for the University’s academic priorities, said Alumni Fund Managing Director Jocelyn Kane. Volunteers, who have knowledge of their classmates, can secure donations by connecting potential donors with capital projects that match their interests, Leatherbury said. According to Vice President for Development Joan O’Neill, whose office oversees the Alumni Fund, volunteers often have a unique ability to convince donors to contribute more money.
The Alumni Fund serves as an ongoing source of funding for the University. The oldest university alumni fund in the world, the group solicits donations from alumni associated with all of the University’s graduate and professional schools and Yale College. Alumni who donate to the fund can choose to channel their money into one of six buckets: student life, facilities, libraries, faculty support, unrestricted and financial aid.
As controversy over the First Amendment, alleged racism and the renaming debate propelled Yale into the national spotlight over the past two years, the Alumni Fund has focused on communicating a balanced account of campus events, Leatherbury said. He added that alumni often learn about campus controversies from news outlets that misrepresent the truth. In the midst of the debate concerning the renaming of Calhoun College to Grace Hopper College, the Alumni Fund held conference calls to contextualize the events with its thousands of volunteers, University President Peter Salovey, O’Neill and Vice President for Communications Eileen O’Connor — who was hired in January 2016, shortly after the controversy began.
After the University develops a concise set of academic priorities for the campaign, O’Neill and the Office of Development will establish the campaign’s structure.
In an October interview with the News, O’Neill said the Office of Development is in the process of examining the infrastructural needs for the upcoming capital campaign, such as an increased staff size, and studying development at peer institutions.
She emphasized that, because donors today prefer to see Yale’s external impact when considering donations, the branding of the upcoming campaign will likely be more external. Rather than “…and for Yale” or “Yale Tomorrow,” the new campaign’s name will represent Yale’s global impact. Rather than relying on former students’ nostalgia, the campaign’s message will focus on the way that Yale will affect “the way that people live in society,” she said.
This shift in Yale’s marketing strategies has carried over to Salovey’s communication with alumni. In a recent address to the Yale Alumni Fund and Association of Yale Alumni, Salovey emphasized the University’s “world-changing research” and efforts to create an “innovation corridor” on campus.
O’Neill said campaigns at Yale’s peer institutions, such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University, have also assumed this outward-looking model.
The Yale Tomorrow campaign raised $3.88 billion.
Hailey Fuchs | email@example.com
Correction, Dec. 6: This story appeared alongside a photograph of the Association of Yale Alumni. The AYA is in fact a separate organization from the Alumni Fund.