Changing economic conditions not seen to adversely affect College fundraising results

In light of the events of Sept. 11 and the nation’s economic recession, the College is reassessing its fundraising strategies. Amidst this economic and political turmoil, it is too early to predict how future donations from alumni will be influenced.

“I don’t think anybody knows for sure how fundraising will be affected in the future. It is certainly the case that it is much harder to raise money during an economic recession,” said Morton Owen Schapiro, president of the College. “But the tragic events of Sept. 11 have put us into uncharted territory.”

The support of the alumni, especially financially, plays an integral role in how the College functions on a daily basis. Donations from alumni are distributed to the funding of student life, faculty and staff salaries and academic and residential facilities.

If it were not for alumni donations, tuition would each increase by roughly $3,300 per year. Founded in 1821, the College’s society of alumni is the oldest in the nation. Since its creation, data have shown that the alumni and friends of the College are very generous.

During 1998, 1999 and 2000, alumni and friends of the College donated approximately $121 million total, more than 75 percent of which came from alumni. The Alumni Fund and capital campaigns make up large portions of alumni giving monies.

Statistics have shown that in the past, the economy has recovered and regrouped from major events, such as the Great Depression and the recession that the United States faced in the early 1990s.

“The total amount of giving in the United States has increased every year but one (1987) for the past 40 years, including through wars, recessions and other crises,” said Steve Birrell, vice president for alumni relations and development. “The rate of growth in giving slowed in the year following the bombing of the World Trade Center (1993), but it increased following the Oklahoma City bombing.”

The College held a “Leadership Weekend” the weekend of Sept. 22, during which alumni and friends of the school convened to discuss various issues. In the words of Schapiro, “[The events of the weekend showed] that what we do at Williams is even more important to them [the alumni] than ever.”

The College continues to move ahead with many of its plans that will improve campus life, which entail the renovation of a few campus buildings, such as Baxter Hall and Adams Memorial Theater, the establishment of the “Williams-in-New York” program, increased interdisciplinary opportunities for sophomore, the augmentation of financial aid, especially through the implementation of a “need-blind admissions process” for prospective international students.

By moving ahead with its infrastructural plans Morton Owen Schapiro, president of the College, believes “it is very likely that [by] going forward we will spend a much higher percentage of our accumulated wealth, but our budget simulations suggest that, in order to make the changes in classroom and student life experiences that would keep us as a leader in American higher education, we would also need to count even more heavily on alumni support.”

The College hopes to raise the money necessary to undergo its plans through what is known as a “capital campaign.” A capital campaign is a fundraising strategy that is instituted over a period of five to seven years that focuses specifically on raising money for building projects and increasing endowment fund.

According to Birrell the term “capital campaign” is a misnomer. He believes that when a college undergoes a campaign in order to raise funds for a specific project it does not only implement a capital campaign to achieve its goals but also a comprehensive campaign to meet its financial needs and objectives.

Through the deployment of both a capital and comprehensive campaign, an institution is able to attain the money necessary to pay for its expendable operating cost and various infrastructural improvements.

In the past, capital and comprehensive campaigns have been quite profitable for the College. Through the employment of both a capital and comprehensive campaign, the College raised approximately $173.6 million from 1987 to 1994 through the “Third Century Campaign.”

Anne T Melvin ’85, vice-chair of the Alumni Fund, a yearly drive to raise money through donations from alumni, acknowledges the importance of alumni giving and in turn considers it her duty to ask alumni for their financial support.

“If we expect Williams to be the best it can possibly be, to train the next generation of leaders who will help us out of the situation we are in, or future situations we can expect to be in, we must have every available intellectual human resource at our command,” she said.

“Williams is a crucible for training such leaders. Knowing that, how can we not go forward with the Alumni Fund?”

The 2001-2002 Alumni Fund, which closes Feb. 15, has brought in approximately $6.9 million to the College.

Birrell believes that “alumni are very generous to Williams and many other worthy causes as well. Williams is an institution that is in it for the long haul, and our alumni leaders are telling us that support for what Williams does is more important than ever.”