Parents are writing checks for more than just tuition, room and board.
Current students’ parents donated $12 million to the University last fiscal year, nearly double the amount parents donated in the previous fiscal year, Aristide Collins, the vice president for development and alumni relations, said last week.
“We had a very, very exciting year last year and we had people do that,” he said. “This year we’re hoping we have that same momentum.”
The increase comes after a $1.7 million dip in parent donations during the 2014 fiscal year. The $12 million donation total is about five times higher than it was four fiscal years ago.
The University doesn’t have specific fundraising events centered around asking parents for gifts, but events like the upcoming Colonials Weekend can make them feel more connected to campus and more likely to make donations.
Collins said donations from students’ parents are “cyclical,” and tend to fluctuate each year based on the parents who have students at GW. As students graduate, their parents might continue to donate, but aren’t counted in the same pool anymore.
“We hope that their giving will continue to increase every year, but if it dips like it did last year, it’s not something that I’m going to be too nervous about,” he said.
He added that parents who are more involved with the University are more inclined to donate. GW’s $1 billion campaign, which publicly launched more than a year ago and has now raised more than $800 million, has gotten parents to give more than they ordinarily would, Collins said.
Mario Houston, a principal consultant at the fundraising firm Precision Partners, said parents may value making a donation to their child’s school, while still likely footing the tuition bill because they see the benefits of having a college degree.
“Usually when parents do that, what they see is that there will be some kind of legacy left from their donation, and it also helps to further the education of the current students as well as maybe future generations down the road,” he said. “You know, maybe you’re talking nieces and nephews. Maybe you’re talking about grandchildren.”
The University has emphasized the tangible impact of donations through naming gifts, which means that donors can name areas of campus with their dollars.
Donald Fellows, a partner at the fundraising firm Marts & Lundy, said parent donations typically increase between 5 and 10 percent each year. He said parents are more likely to donate when they’re involved in a campus through groups like advisory boards.
GW’s development office has a fundraising board made up of parents, which also helps drive in donations from current students’ parents, according to the campaign’s website.
“But usually if you can get them more involved, they’re going to be more likely to give,” Fellows said. “And in some cases it’s just about being a little more assertive in asking.”
He added that parents tend to donate toward the beginning of their children’s college careers. As students get older, parents become less “enthusiastic” about donating to the school.
“You call and talk to a freshman parent in September or October,” he said. “They haven’t gotten their first report card yet, and they’re happy to write a check. They don’t mind writing a check for $100 or $1,000 because everyone’s feeling great at the time.”
The University raised a record amount last year: a total of $230 million.
Brian Gower, the vice president of research at the fundraising firm Ruffalo Noel-Levitz, said parents make gifts to colleges because they see how the experiences are improving their students’ futures.
“College is such a life-changing experience and that experience is so fresh in the minds of parents,” he said. “If parents feel that students have gotten a really great experience and have a really compelling vision, that’s really going to propel success.”
Sera Royal contributed reporting.