Alumni fund surpasses goals for 1999-2000

The Williams Alumni Fund has surpassed its monetary goal, but failed to meet its participation goal for 1999-2000.

The college hoped to raise $5.9 million and in fact raised $6.34 million but the participation goal of 60 percent was narrowly missed as 56.8 percent of alumni made donations.

The total number of donors was 12,765, which is 726 short of the goal of 13,144. The 1998-1999 drive netted $5.6 million, easily besting its goal of $5.1 million. The average participation rate for 1997 and 1998 was 60 percent.

In contrast, 68 percent of Amherst and 54 percent of Swarthmore alumni donated to their alma maters over the same period.

The increase in monies raised is consistent with recent trends. Over the past five years, the fund has grown 35 percent. Joan Gregg Callahan ’89, director of annual giving, attributed the lower participation rate to several factors.

“In 1986, Williams alumni had a giving rate of 68 percent,” she said. “Amherst had a rate of about 55 percent. Those numbers have approximately flip-flopped for a variety of reasons.

“Between 1987 and 1993, Williams ran the Third Century Campaign, which may have gotten some people out of the habit of giving to the alumni fund because of its emphasis on other gifts. Amherst retains 90 percent of its donors from year to year while Williams retains 83 percent.

“Additionally, Amherst does a better job of bringing in young alums. Every year we add 500 names to our denominator of total alumni and when a lower proportion of recent classes give, this brings down the rate as a whole.”

The class of 1999 was an exception to this rule as 74 percent of its members gave to the fund.

The Williams drive runs from Oct. 1 through Feb. 15, in contrast to most of Williams’ peer institutions, which raise funds from alumni all year.

The College uses the Alumni Fund to meet its most immediate financial obligations. The money is used for financial aid, faculty salaries, laboratory equipment, student activities and other short-term needs.

The fund is distinct from the Capital Fund, which supports the long-term needs of the college.

The Morley Science Complex, for example, cost $40 million to build, an expense that was drawn from the Capital Fund, and will cost around 750 thousand dollars per year to maintain, an expense that will be supported by the Alumni Fund.

Last year, the Alumni Fund provided for six percent of the College’s operating budget. If it were not for the fund, student tuition would increase about $2500 a year or the rate of spending the endowment would be driven up.

Over the past 20 years, the college has spent an average of four percent of the endowment each year. If the alumni fund were to cease to exist, that rate would jump to 4.7 percent.

The Williams Society of Alumni is the oldest in the world and was founded in 1821 by alumnus Emory Washburn.

It was founded in response to the defection in 1821 of then Williams president Zephaniah Swift Moore with half the student body to found a college in Amherst. Washburn founded the society “to advance the reputation and interests of our Alma Mater.”

Today, the alumni fund is a sub-committee of the Society of Alumni and is volunteer-driven with a support staff that works for the college. Each class has a head agent and a team of associate agents who develop and maintain the class network and secure annual gifts. Each agent selects 25 members of the class, generally people he or she knows, and is responsible for contacting these people about making a gift.

“Fund raising is the largest Alumni Relations vehicle,” Callahan said.

“It keeps people involved in the campus and also lets us keep track of marriages, births and other personal information about alums. When people make a gift to the college, they feel more invested in the institution.”

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