Council of Chairs giving rate nears 100 percent

More than 90 percent of the members of the Council of Chairs donated more than $20 million to the University last fiscal year – inching closer to a giving rate goal of 100 percent.

Chair of the Council of Chairs Laura Taddeucci Downs said during a Board of Trustees meeting Friday that the giving rate last year reached 92 percent. The increase can be credited to a series of guidelines, introduced last fiscal year, for the advisory council chairs to maximize their giving power, she said.

The Council of Chairs consists of 17 boards made up of GW’s most active donors who fundraise for individual schools and advise the Board of Trustees. Taddeucci Downs, who has served as chair since July 2012, increased the giving rate from 58 percent her first year to 92 percent last fiscal year – up 3 percent from the year before.

At last year’s February Board of Trustees meeting, Taddeucci Downs proposed term limits and giving council members emeritus status to solve the problem of a low giving rate. She said that last spring, she met with Senior Associate Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations David Anderson to evaluate the progress of councils and put some of those guidelines into play.

“We introduced best practices at our March 2016 meeting and have asked the councils to implement them by the end of this fiscal year,” Taddeucci Downs said in an email.

One new guideline encourages councils to maintain 20 to 30 members and to remove members who do not meet annual giving expectations, which has reduced membership by about 17 percent, Tadeucci Downs said.

“There needs to be annual participation in giving, and if there’s not, they need to move those alumni off the councils,” she said in an interview. “We started with about 600 members. We’re down to about 500.”

She said advisory councils will now have more flexibility to determine their own minimum annual giving requirements based on the number and age of council members. For example, the business school’s advisory council has a $10,000 annual donation minimum, while the Graduate School of Education and Human Development’s standard is $1,000. Councils can also have lower minimums for young alumni.

“We’ve encouraged councils to bring young alumni onto their councils and perhaps change the annual gift giving requirement for those younger alumni,” she said. “This enables us to groom future philanthropic leaders.”

Last fiscal year, 12 of the 17 councils hit a 100 percent giving rate, the highest number of councils to reach the goal to date. Taddeucci Downs said she hopes all councils reach 100 percent giving by the end of this fiscal year in June, which is also the end of her term as chair of the Council of Chairs.

“With over 500 members, it will be challenging to hit that 100 percent mark, but I believe we will get very close as our council members. GW’s philanthropic volunteer leaders, understand the importance of leading by example,” Taddeucci Downs said in an email.

University President Steven Knapp said that increased engagement of the Council of Chairs, which he called the “core alumni constituency,” will help GW-wide fundraising, which is often funneled through the individual schools. Officials have raised more than $960 million as part of the $1 billion campaign.

“We’ve been making a very concerted effort to get more of that activity and fundraising out into the schools because they have direct contact with alumni, supporters, people interested in their fields,” Knapp said. “I think the council can become the real ambassadors to the University when it comes to philanthropy.”

Hatchet reporter Fiona Byon contributed reporting.

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