Ask, Receive, Repeat: The Art of Donations


By Nathan Ploense, Contributing Writer

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Image from mckendree.edu

“Class of 2018! Are you ready to make a difference at McKendree before you graduate? Please give as a way to say thank you for your amazing four years at university,” exclaims email after email arriving in the inboxes of graduating seniors.

At the tail end of the Fall semester of 2017, emails and announcements started to fill inboxes and the goal marker sign went up. With a continuous stream of emails, sometimes within an hour of one another, some students ask why these gifts are so important and why they should even consider the request.

“We ask students to make gifts to McKendree through Give Big to the Pig and the Senior Class Gift programs to teach the impact and importance of philanthropy at McKendree and help build on our culture of philanthropy,” says Whitney Strang, Director of Major Gifts at McKendree. “A survey revealed that colleges and universities that invest in student fundraising programs tend to raise more money and are more successful at engaging their students to become lifelong donors than institutions that do not have similar programs.”

In fact, there are many studies and statistics that support the idea of engaging students to self-give for such programs. According to Rick Seltzer, a writer for Inside Higher Ed, “It is the highest fund-raising total recorded in the survey’s six-decade history. The 6.3 percent year-over-year increase nearly quadrupled the rate of growth between 2015 and 2016, which was 1.7 percent in last year’s survey.”

Even still, some students have reservations about giving more money to McKendree after already paying for the four years of education and accumulating student loans.

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McKendree email regarding senior gifts.

Most contact from the Alumni house happens via email which may be the reason some students feel like there are too many requests in a short period of time. However, the Alumni house does many things to try and reach out to students, such as personal contact methods, social media from personal and university accounts, flyers, and lab-vertisments.  All of these methods of communication are intended to keep students updated with the progress of the fund-raising drive.

Whitney Strang says the Senior Class Gift Committee, which is comprised of graduating students, “regularly discusses different ideas to reach their classmates.”

The marketing strategy behind asking for donations is simple and focuses on engaging the audience in a manner that will make them more likely to give for a cause. Doing things like telling a story to explain the need could help develop an emotional or rational reaction, making it more relatable. Another common tool is saying ‘Thank you’ even if they decided not to give.  This is one way to form some trust or positive emotion so that in the future a person may consider giving a little more as a result.

Unlike certain strategies people come across in check-out lines or fast food windows, where the cashier may ask if you’d like to round up your total or add a dollar to your purchase for a charity of their choosing, McKendree offers the donator the chance to designate where the money will go. For some this is a big move in the right direction to be able to support areas they feel are underfunded. While McKendree is a large sport campus, some students are more invested in other things and may wish to give more to lesser known activities or organizations.

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Image taken from mckendree.edu

Melanie Pinola, writer for Lifehacker, says, “Charitable organizations may seem overly aggressive when it comes to marketing, but without contributions, most of them wouldn’t survive, so we can probably cut them a little more slack than we might otherwise. That said, you don’t have to just put up with the emails and letters if they really bother you.”

She goes on to give advice on how to avoid these things such as doing research on an organization prior to giving, especially their privacy policies. At the very least, you should be able to find how to opt-out of receiving requests. While it may be a slight headache, the causes are generally good and it can serve as a reminder of your donation, even if it is a less desired way to do it.