Pomp, circumstance, and the senior class gift

It’s graduation season and with seven private colleges within a 50 mile radius of my home, commencement ceremonies are the event du jour here in south central Pennsylvania. All this pomp and circumstance has inquiring minds (ok, just mine) wanting to know what percentage of the Classes of 2011 are also donors of record thanks to a senior class gift program.  My quest for answers sent me to the websites of the seven schools. Here’s what I found.

All seven sponsor a senior class gift program, but it took some serious searching on most of the sites to ferret out information about the campaigns. In fact, for one school the only evidence of a senior class gift program is a video on youtube. And as of graduation day, four of the seven haven’t reported final giving figures. This leads me to the conclusion that development staff and student volunteers ran out of steam early on.  

In contrast, caps in the air to Gettysburg, Lebanon Valley, and Messiah Colleges. The student-run campaigns at these schools were well promoted, well executed, and well rewarded (at least in terms of  participation).

Working toward 95% participation and $30,000 in gifts, the Class of 2011 at Gettysburg College came in at 88% participation and $16,705 total given. Included within this total is an impressive 149 students who earned a spot in the college’s Cuppola Society with first-time gifts of at least $100.

Up the road at Messiah College, 49% of graduating seniors contributed $5,800 toward a goal of 50% participation and $7,002 in gifts. The seemingly odd dollar goal is a flip of the year in which most in the Class of 2011 entered the college (2007).

A little further to the east at Lebanon Valley College, 40% of this year’s graduates contributed a generous $15,578. The goal at LVC was 50% participation and $25,000 in gifts.

Of course, the full story of ROI by staff and volunteers in the senior class gift initiatives is yet to come. If I were in charge, I’d want to track the following metrics:

  1. Percentage of second gifts from the 2011 participant group.
  2. Reliability of participation in a senior class giving program as a predictor of donor persistence. That seems the assumption, but does it hold?
  3. Five years and then ten years out, how many from the 2011 group are still giving and in what amount? What is the average rate of increase between the first gift and the 5-year, 10-year gifts?

You have my questions. What’s on your list? Inquiring minds in small college development shops everywhere want to know.


  1. Dot Ridings says:

    Today’s weekly email newsletter from the Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary featured the progress of the senior class gift to the seminary. The next email message I opened was your blog! This has to be the topic of the day!

  2. Thank you for your encouraging comment. I hope the senior class gift program at Louisville Presbyterian Seminary is a great success. It’s important for soon-to-be pastors to practice generosity.

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