Senior class gift on track to goal

The Senior Class Gift Campaign has racked up higher participation compared to this time last year, bringing the initiative closer to meeting its 50 percent participation goal.

So far 34 percent of all seniors have donated to the University, working toward a target of half of the graduating class by Commencement. The figure nears the total participation rate for 2009 – marking the program’s rapid growth in recent years – but remains about 360 students below its goal.

Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees Nelson Carbonell pledged in January to donate $50,000 if 50 percent of the graduating class contributed to the campaign. Carbonell, who graduated from the School of Engineering and Applied Science in 1985, urged seniors to give as the semester winds down.

“I am encouraged by how many seniors have already given to this year’s Senior Class Gift,” he said in an e-mail.

About 43 percent of the Class of 2011 participated in last year’s campaign, raising a total of $90,000 – half of which was a matching gift from an alumni group. Giving is 14 percent ahead of last year at this time, according to data from the Division of Development and Alumni Relations.

Vice President of Development and Alumni Relations Mike Morsberger said Carbonell set a high bar for this year’s class, requiring about 1,130 seniors to participate to lock in the trustee’s donation. The goal requires 7 percent more seniors to give, a larger increase than was seen in either of the past two years.

Morsberger said “it feels like we’re on track,” adding that a flood of donations typically comes in toward the end of the semester, even on the day of Commencement.

“So 50 percent was really a stretch,” he said. “You’re talking about hundreds and hundreds more people giving,” he said.

While student donors can direct their individual gifts to the University department, club or initiative of their choice, Carbonell’s matching gift will support need-based scholarships through the Power and Promise Fund, a program created by the University in 2010 to promote philanthropy for scholarships.

“The Power and Promise Fund will change the lives of future GW students, and I hope that our seniors will support these efforts,” Carbonell said.

Fundraising among young alumni is part of Morsberger’s plan to build a culture of philanthropy that has not previously existed at GW. He said locking in donors two years before or within three years of graduation, when ties with the University are still strongest, typically means they will continue to give.

“If we can get you to give once, we’ve likely got you as a donor for the rest of your life,” he said. “If we miss that window, statistically speaking, the large majority of people won’t give again for 20 years.”

Senior Class Gift Coordinator Victoria Hartman said she was happy with giving so far, citing a new partnership with GW Athletics to encourage all senior athletes to donate.

“Through these efforts, in addition to a jam-packed calendar of senior programming through Commencement, we are confident that the Class of 2012 will soon give the largest senior class gift in GW history,” Hartman said.

She declined to give a dollar amount raised so far in the campaign.

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