Small-college alumni more likely to donate

02/25/07 -- NICOLE GAUDIANO and LEDYARD KING - WASHINGTON -- University of Delaware alumni may have donated generously to their alma mater last year, but they weren't as willing to give on the whole as alumni from tiny Wesley College.

While the University of Delaware secured donations from only 11 percent of its alumni,
nearly a third of Wesley's graduates contributed -- a participation rate not far from that of
Stanford University, the private fundraising leader among educational institutions.

A Council for Aid to Education survey, released last week, indicates Wesley's
accomplishment is not uncommon among small colleges whose alumni generally appear
more willing to donate than those at Ivy League schools and large state universities.

UD is constantly seeking ways to reach out to alumni, said Bob Davis, the university's vice
president for development and alumni relations. But the university, whose state funding has
gradually declined by about 4 percent over the past two decades, is among public
institutions fighting a perception that it receives more state support than it does.

"There's a great deal of education that needs to take place, beginning with students before
they even graduate," Davis said.

Delaware State University enrolls about 3,700 students, but it didn't benefit from the
small-school trend. It, too, suffers from false perceptions of its state support, according to
Lorene Robinson, DSU director of alumni affairs.

"We're constantly trying to educate our alumni on the importance of giving," she said.

Alumni participation is crucial not just for the cash it brings in, but the message it sends to
bigger fish, said Mike Rogers, assistant to the president at Elmira College in New York.

"When we talk to foundations about really large gifts, the first question is how much do the
alumni give, how much do the parents give, because those are the people that know you
best," he said.

Ivy League schools -- Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Dartmouth, Harvard, Princeton, Penn and
Yale -- ranked among the top 10 institutions in terms of private fundraising, according to
the council. But at least half of graduates from schools like Middlebury College in Vermont,
Carleton College in Minnesota and Lyon College in Arkansas with enrollments of fewer
than 2,500 gave to their schools.

The survey of more than 1,000 colleges nationwide found that giving from private sources
rose 9.4 percent last year to $28 billion. Nearly a third of that came from alumni, who along
with foundations, corporations and other individuals such as parents make up the bulk of
private gifts, according to the council, which tracked donations from July 1, 2005 to June
30, 2006.

Wesley officials said they hope to build on its success, even amid increasing competition
for private funds.

"As we call on individual donors and corporations and foundations, we're seeing a greater
presence of public institutions," Wesley President Scott D. Miller said. "Fundraising is
relatively new for the publics, but they're having to get rather aggressive in that arena to
offset changes in publicly available funds."

Davis said UD has been successful in private fundraising, completing a capital campaign
last year with $431 million, nearly double its goal. Of the 1,035 schools surveyed, it ranked
135 in the funds it raised last year.

The school's 11 percent alumni participation rate isn't unusual. On average, less than 12
percent of the alumni who could be found and contacted for a donation gave to their alma
maters, according to the survey.

Even so, Davis said he hopes to get more alumni on board with e-mail solicitations and
senior class challenges.

"There's always room for improvement," he said.

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