Record percentage of seniors donate to class gift

Board of Trustees Chairman Nelson Carbonell, Senior Class Gift coordinators Kristen Barnes, Juman Kekhia and Cindy Swanson and University President Steven Knapp celebrated reaching a goal of 62 percent participation from seniors in the annual fundraising campaign. Ashley Le  | Hatchet Photographer
Board of Trustees Chairman Nelson Carbonell, Senior Class Gift coordinators Kristen Barnes, Juman Kekhia and Cindy Swanson, and University President Steven Knapp celebrated reaching a goal of 62 percent participation from seniors in the annual fundraising campaign. Ashley Le | Hatchet Photographer

The Class of 2016 set a new participation record in their annual fundraising campaign, with 62.7 percent of seniors donating a total of $87,553.

That total was about $40,000 less than last year’s gift, which holds a class gift record at $128,000. The Class of 2015 also previously held the participation record, with 60 percent.

This year’s campaign will continue accepting donations to the campaign until June 30.

Nelson Carbonell, the chairman of the Board of Trustees, who has matched donations to the gift in past years, thanked the senior class for their donations.

“Today we proudly acknowledge you as new alumni for the George Washington University, but more importantly, donors and supporters for the future,” Carbonell said.

University President Steven Knapp called the senior class “extraordinarily dedicated to making a difference in the lives of others.”

“That’s why you’ve come here, to make history,” he said, invoking the name of GW’s $1 billion campaign. “You’ve done that, and you’re helping us do that today with this gift.”

The Senior Class Gift is a decades-old tradition that encourages seniors to contribute to the University before graduating. Students can donate to any program, organization or department they wish, and a series of events throughout the year, like happy hours, give students multiple opportunities to make a donation.

Juman Kekhia, the lead coordinator of the campaign, presented Knapp with the check at Thursday’s event, along with assistant coordinators Kristen Barnes and Cindy Swanson. Kekhia said encouraging a high number of students to donate any amount was more important than raising a six-figure number because it motivates more students to give to GW in the future.

“Rather than getting in peoples faces asking for large amounts of money, we wanted to really push the idea that you’re giving back and that’s what matters,” Kekhia said. “That’s what we wanted to cement in seniors’ minds.”

Swanson said donating a small amount now could inspire students to give larger amounts in the years to come.

“It’s important that students, they contribute what they can, and that’re more important,” Swanson said. “Maybe as they go on in life that will change, but just staying involved at any level is really important.”

The coordinators of the campaign set a record participation goal this year, asking 62 percent of the senior class to donate. This year’s campaign focused especially on increasing participation from members of the Greek life community.

Kekhia said a series of last-minute fundraising pushes helped push the campaign over the edge. In April, a parent and alumnus promised a $10,000 gift if 250 new donations were made during the month.

Kekhia said participation increased significantly during that month, unlocking the gift. Gifts of this kind are common for the senior campaign – during last year’s campaign, an anonymous donor spent a week matching gifts up to $3,000.

Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said that as final gifts to the campaign roll in, he hopes that senior participation may hit 63 or 64 percent.

“Anytime we can achieve our goals and raise higher and do all that we can, we want to celebrate,” Konwerski said. “These are an amazing group of graduates and we’re happy to have had them for four years, but also to have them as alumni for life.”

Aristide Collins, the vice president of development and alumni relations, said the Senior Class Gift will contribute to the University’s major fundraising campaign, which is set to raise $1 billion by June 2018. The campaign has raised $852 million as of April 27.

“It starts them on the path to be generous alumni donors in the future,” Collins said. “This is always a nice way to celebrate their commencement, their ceremony, their achievement, but also it shows how committed they are to giving back to the university.”

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