Climbing faculty donations key to future fundraising

Faculty and staff donations hit $22 million last year, in line with a rapidly rising giving rate over the past five years.

The money came from 1,337 professors and staffers in 2012 – a 38 percent rise from five years ago – with most coming as gifts of $1,000 or less. Some larger gifts were also tucked away in faculty wills.

Gifts from faculty hardly compare to the about half-billion dollars the University raised overall during that span, but GW’s chief development officer said that base of support is crucial to attracting donors from outside the college.

“Sophisticated donors ask this question before they give: ‘Tell me about those who are already giving and those closest to you,’ ” Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Mike Morsberger said.

Morsberger said GW has solicited more faculty through emails and announcements since intensifying its fundraising focus over the last three years by pulling in more cash and adding staff and events. He said he can also point to a 100 percent giving rate among members of the Board of Trustees, University President Steven Knapp, vice presidents and deans.

Some schools have also formed committees to organize campaign drives – similar to the Senior Class Gift Campaign – to spur faculty to give back. The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences is starting its faculty committee this semester.

It will look to emulate the faculty fundraising success of the GW Law School, which has led the way with 95 percent of professors giving back more than $100,000 last fall, a total that includes start-up funds for scholarships and international students.

The effort has also spurred the formation of a dozen-member committee and an elaborate campaign. Other schools conduct smaller efforts by tapping one or two faculty members to try to pump up support, development office spokeswoman Patricia Danver said.

The development office could not provide other schools’ faculty giving rates.

Nearly three-quarters of law professors opt to give regular gifts to the school out of their paychecks, institutionalizing their donations.

They are the University’s wealthiest faculty base. Associate law professors earned $161,770 on average two years ago, about 28 percent more than their counterparts at GW’s next highest-paying school.

Nicole Fratianne, the law school’s associate director of development, said a six-week fall campaign bolstered the faculty giving rate to near-perfection, up 5 percent from the year before and 48 percent two years ago.

“It’s setting the bar for our donors and supporters of the law school. When they ask, we can say that [faculty] give at a high rate,” Fratianne said. “It’s friendly competition, and [it’s] also inspiring.”

Growth in academic programs, research, student life and construction projects all hinge on fundraising successes. GW’s strategic plan alone will require between $300 million and $400 million over the next decade.

Yvonne Captain-Hidalgo, an associate professor of Spanish and international affairs, said faculty have noticed an increased “push” for fundraising dollars recently.

She said she has donated “small amounts of money” to the Elliott School of International Affairs over the last three years and Gelman Library for the last five years. For the Elliott School, she said she wants to help the programs with which she works closely, while her library gifts show appreciation for the staff.

“Even though I think our library isn’t the most modern, I do know there are ways [staff members] are trying to make the library the best it can be,” she said. “The staff there, to me, is the greatest asset the library has. They go out of their way repeatedly so people get the kinds of things they need.”

Carol Sigelman, a professor of psychology, said she started donating about a decade ago, but added that she created larger endowed funds for undergraduate research five years ago with her husband Lee, a former political science department chair who died in 2009 .

“As I remember, in earlier years, there wasn’t much of an effort on the part of [the] development office to encourage faculty giving. They’re thinking more about that,” she said. “When you do care about the institution and want to see it thrive, you do give in a variety of ways.”

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