Alumni giving rises to new levels

Alumni donations increased significantly last year after University President Steven Knapp made it a top priority of his administration, but officials said the school is still far from reaching its fundraising goals.

The University received about 16 percent more alumni contributions last year from only four percent more donors, said Adrienne Rulnick, associate vice president of alumni relations and development. Rulnick also noted that the income from last year’s senior gift was the highest ever recorded. She emphasized that this giving must be increased further.

“We are still not where we should be as a university,” Rulnick said.

A report presented to the Faculty Senate last Friday on alumni giving highlighted three goals for the almost 225,000 alumni worldwide: enabling lifelong engagement, gathering a voice for alumni and creating a culture of philanthropy. The report indicated that 19,607 alumni donated almost $6 million last year.

Knapp said in an interview that the University made tremendous progress over the past year. He personally took several alumni-focused trips around the country and the world since assuming office, visiting Asia, Europe and a variety of cities in the United States.

But Knapp said GW still has to develop a culture of philanthropy that builds alumni relations and counters the costs of attending the University.

“I have had a chance to meet over 11,000 alumni worldwide and listen to some of the great ideas our alumni have,” Knapp said. “What we need to do is create the mechanisms for these alumni to share their ideas with current students.”

Vice President of Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said the school plans to provide the resources for alumni to serve as mentors for students. He added that improving GW can be beneficial to alumni in their present lives.

“From the viewpoint of the University and presence outside the University, it is essential to keep up with alumni,” Lehman said. “In many instances the University creates the values of their degrees.”

As part of the initiative to broaden the outreach of the Alumni Association, the office named Oksana Carlson its first director of international alumni relations. A finance report presented to the Board of Trustees this May stated that 200 full-time University employees will be devoted to fundraising by the end of this academic year.

“One of our initiatives is to work with international students on campus to let them know that when they go home we still have a connection with them,” Rulnick said.

There are more than 10,000 alumni in about 150 countries, with almost half of the international alumni residing in Asia. Knapp plans to visit Shanghai, Tokyo, Bangkok and Singapore this fall.

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