Student aid, University ties motivate donors

For alumnus Jeremy Gosbee, attending an expensive university like GW would have been impossible without the help of financial aid.

It was the generosity he received from the University – where he earned two degrees – that ultimately led him to donate $5,000 to GW’s Power and Promise Scholarship Fund this year, he said.

Gosbee – who graduated in 1998 and earned his MBA from GW in 2002 – is one of about 10 percent of alumni who donate to GW in a given year, said Patricia Danver, a spokeswoman for the Division of Development and Alumni Relations. Danver, as well as donors interviewed by The Hatchet, said that factors such as received financial aid and a high level of campus involvement are motivators that push them to give back.

“I would not have been able to go to GW without a ton of financial aid and that was a big factor in my decision to go to GW,” Gosbee said. “I knew that someone like me wouldn’t be able to attend without there being a source of financial support, so as an alum, I understand that I can do that for other students and pay that back, ‘pay it forward.’ “

Of the gifts received by the University that have been given for a specific purpose, most are put toward student aid, Danver said.

“Of the gifts that are designated, most are to support student aid through the Power and Promise Fund or a specific school,” she said, adding that alumni tend to donate to the place they feel most connected to.

Gosbee said his donation will go toward a scholarship for a student from his hometown near Rochester, N.Y. that exhibits financial need similar to his.

“This is who I was. I’d like to help somebody in the same situation that I was in,” Gosbee said. “I wouldn’t be where I am without GW.”

GW’s 10 percent alumni-giving rate is on par with the national average, according to statistics from the Chronicle of Higher Education. The University is making an effort to increase this rate, most recently hiring Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Michael Morsberger, a fundraising heavyweight from Duke Medicine who has in the past launched multi-billion dollar campaigns.

“On average, around 16,500 alumni donate cash each year,” Danver said. “Over the past few years we’ve averaged around $16 million from alumni in cash gifts.”

Danver said alumni are encouraged to support in whatever way is most meaningful to them, whether it is a specific school, student organization, or athletic team.

“Alumni donations are extremely important to a university,” Danver said. “Alumni are a testament to the strength of a GW education; likewise, their support of GW is a statement of their belief in the University – all that GW is today and all that the University wants to be in the future.”

For 2009 graduate Emma Aronson, the financial aid she received from the University helped make college affordable, and spurred her decision to donate to GW during her senior year. She donated to the Elliott School for a scholarship fund.

“I’m giving specifically to the Elliott School because of the opportunities that I had at GW,” Aronson said. “I’ve seen the Arabic program grow by leaps and bounds. I think it’s important to give other students the same opportunities that I had, and even better opportunities.”

Danver noted that a significant source of donations come from outgoing seniors, saying that senior class giving rates have been on the rise, with 25.2 percent of seniors giving to the Senior Class Gift Committee in fiscal year 2008 and 34.6 percent in fiscal year 2009.

Scout Seide, a member of the current Senior Class Gift Committee, said that current seniors should feel obligated to give back to the school that has provided for them for the last four years.

“We’re able to walk two blocks and go anywhere – to the monuments, Dupont, the White House. GW is this amazing metropolitan cultural experience,” Seide said. “If you had an ounce of entertainment or fun, if you’ve learned one thing at your school, I definitely think you should give back.”

Laura Taddeucci Downs, current president of the GW Alumni Association, said she too donates to the University because of previous kindness bestowed upon her.

“The past couple of years, I’ve designated my gift to the swim team because if it wasn’t for my swim scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to attend GW,” Downs said.

Downs said she and her husband donated $2,500 this year.

“Given the economy, it doesn’t matter how much you give but that you participate,” Downs said. “Even if $25 is all you can afford for that year, then do that. The most important thing is that people participate.”

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