Young alum, can you share a tenth?

As the clock ticks down on the fiscal year, anxiety ticks up in development offices over percent of alumni as donors. It’s amazing what fundraising staffs will do to boost alumni participation.

Some encourage seniors to turn over their housing deposits as first gifts to the institution. Others peg the suggested gift amount to the alum’s graduation year, with a decimal point inserted (e.g. Class of 2002: $20.02).  And there’s the annual fund director who mailed a dollar bill to recent grads, asking that it be returned to the school as a “gift.”

So much for growing givers’ hearts.

In contrast, check out what graduate students Nick Beckstead and Mark Lee, founders of the Rutgers University chapter of Giving What We Can, have to say to their peers.

We are deeply committed to giving significantly and to helping others experience the joy and power of effective giving. Graduate students aren’t exactly rolling in money, but we easily give at least 10 percent of our stipends (around $30,000). After we graduate and start our careers, we’ve pledged to give half of our incomes for the rest of our working lives to help alleviate global poverty.

We’re convinced that most people in our country can comfortably give far more than they imagine. If you earn $45,000 a year and give 10%  to effective organizations fighting global poverty, you’d still be among the top 1% of the world’s wage-earners. You’d also save 10 lives every year. If 99% of the world can get by on less, we probably can too.

Nick and Mark (and a lot of other young adults) understand that generous matters – but not for reasons that far too many fundraising appeals suggest. If the goal is to grow the hearts of alumni (young, middle-aged, or older), there’s much that fundraisers can learn from a closer look at “Giving What We Can” and similar grassroots initiatives.

What's your take on this topic?

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