A quarter of seniors donate to GW with three months left of campaign

Media Credit: Katie Causey | Hatchet Staff Photographer

This year's Senior Class Gift campaign coordinators, Alix Cohen, left, and Michelle Ryngel, say donations are on track to meet their goal.

About a quarter of the senior class has already made donations to this year’s Senior Class Gift campaign, the coordinators reported last week.

The University set a record-high participation goal for the class this year, expecting 60 percent of seniors to make a gift to GW before they graduate. The campaign aims to get students in the habit of giving before they leave the University, part of an effort to create a culture of philanthropy among alumni.

Michelle Ryngel, one of the coordinators, said it’s difficult to compare this year’s progress with the participation rate that other classes had at this time because those campaigns had different goals.

“We’ve looked at each month and where we would want to be, and right now we’re exactly where we would want to be,” Ryngel said.

While the campaign is only about a third of the way to its goal, co-coordinator Alix Cohen said more gifts will pour in as the deadline draws near and “the urgency factor” goes into effect.

“You’ll get a lot of people that will reach out to us and say, ‘I just got a job yesterday. It’s time to make my senior class gift,’” she said. “People want to be a part of that majority, that 60 percent to give back in a way, to say ‘Thank you’ or to make a change.”

Seniors’ donations will be counted toward the University’s $1 billion campaign. Officials have already raised about $715 million.

Overall participation in the senior class giving blitz has increased over the last several years. Last year’s 55 percent participation rate was a more than 10 percentage-point increase from three years ago. Last year’s seniors donated a combined $86,000.

To get the word out about the campaign, Ryngel and Cohen said they have been using a hashtag on social media for the first time and will release a promotional video before spring break.

Ryngel and Cohen said they are also strengthening partnerships with niche areas of the University by networking at athletic events, like the Buff and Blue Challenge, and during social programs, like Greek Week.

“Knowing this would be the highest goal set for our campaign, we kind of took on the motto, ‘Let’s try something new and see what works,’” Ryngel said.

Ryngel, Cohen and their 15-student committee have also tried to seek out areas where there are “pockets of seniors,” like upperclassman residence halls. They’ve tried “dorm storming” this year to tell students about the campaign.

“If we sat behind a desk all day, there would be no way we could hit the goal of this campaign,” Ryngel said.

And by hitting their target, Ryngel said seniors could be on track to keep alive a culture of giving at GW in the future. The University has historically had a lower alumni donation rate than its peers.

“Seniors who do take part in the campaign are more likely to be connected with the University in the future, and that’s just a trend you see in general across alumni giving at any institution,” Ryngel said. “The senior campaign is the first kind of step out into the real world where seniors take in this alumni network.”

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