The Senior Class Gift Committee made its list of student donors public for the first time, a change that mirrors a nationwide trend of universities seeking alternative ways to increase pre-graduation donations.
This year’s committee hopes putting a name on each gift received will encourage more than half of this year’s class to make monetary contributions – 40 percent of seniors digged into their wallets last year.
“This is the first year that we have recognized donors in an ‘honor roll’ on our website,” Coordinator of the Senior Class Gift Eric Thibault said. “Seniors do have the option to opt off the honor roll list if they choose, as directed in their thank you e-mail for their gift.”
Thibault said publicizing GW’s student donors is in no way meant to shame unwilling students into giving to the class gift fund, which happened at Cornell and Dartmouth universities last spring.
In a case at Dartmouth, the one student who declined to participate was publicly scrutinized by campus leaders in the student newspaper for refusing multiple requests to help the school reach its broad goal of a 100 percent give-back rate.
At Cornell, the 42 seniors who volunteered to raise money for the class gift made frequent phone calls to those who declined to give gifts, and made public the names of students who chose not to donate, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Thibault said that while it is important to engage seniors in giving back to GW, the committee’s overall goal is not just to make money.
“The Senior Class Gift Campaign is just as much about educating seniors about why they should give back as it is bringing in actual gifts,” Thibault, a former reporter for The Hatchet, said.
For seniors who donate $75 or more to the fund, an asterisk is placed next to their names on the gift’s online honor roll, denoting their membership to the Luther Rice Society, an alumni society that offers a series of networking opportunities and event access for members.
“We try to make this a positive experience for students by working with the Luther Rice Society to connect seniors with influential alumni, plan senior nights that help to build class unity and positively recognize students have chosen to give back to the University,” Thibault said.
Allison Shawcross, a senior majoring in exercise science, said she donated to this year’s fund because she believed in giving back to the University, and said she didn’t mind her name being tied to the fund.
“All donors are asked on the giving form if their gift wants to be anonymous or not,” Shawcross, who worked as a student fundraiser at Colonial Connection, said. “I’m very happy to give, and I’m very happy to be acknowledged for it.”
Other seniors said they agreed that having their name publicized with the fund was only positive for the overall philanthropic efforts of the University.
“I would hope that maybe it encourages my friends and fellow classmates to donate by seeing my name or the name of friends,” senior Matt Carlson, who is also a member of the Luther Rice Society, said. “Many students take pride and care about GW and giving back to its future is really great in my opinion.”
Thibault said that he hoped this sentiment was understood by the rest of the GW community.
“It’s important to note that the Senior Class Gift Campaign is not only a way for students to give back to the University, but we also aim to aid them in becoming successful and engaged alumni,” Thibault said.