Class of 2010 follows US lead

Graduating students at Loughborough kick-start American-style gift scheme. Hannah Fearn reports

August 19, 2010

Students at Loughborough University have donated £14,000 of their own money to the institution as part of a major fundraising scheme.

While it is common in the US for graduating students to raise a lump sum for their university, the practice is rare in the UK, with the average donor making their first gift much later in life. The Loughborough scheme aims to change that and reproduce the pattern enjoyed by the North American academy, where the university fundraising sector is more mature.

The graduating class of 2010, together with the Loughborough Students' Union executive committee, aims to raise a total of £25,000 towards the cost of a new sports facility at the university, which in turn will be named after the group.

The fundraising drive, described as a "fledgling effort in culture change", was set up after the students' union called for greater access to recreational sports facilities on campus.

The university agreed, but asked students to pay for up to a quarter of the cost as a parting gift to their alma mater.

Ron Gray, director of development and alumni relations at Loughborough, said the scheme had been set up "knowing that we wanted to instil this culture of supporting the university. I talked to the students' union executive about what we could both do to meet the goals of having more of a culture of giving and securing more space on campus for recreational sports."

The union was set a target of raising between £15,000 and £25,000 from the graduating class of 2010 towards the cost of the new facilities. Senior management were also encouraged to show their support, and Shirley Pearce, the institution's vice-chancellor, helped to promote the idea to final-year students.

"If Loughborough wants philanthropic support from alumni, it's something we have to believe in as an institution. That speaks volumes to other people," said Mr Gray. The campaign was promoted with the message: "Don't give unless you feel that Loughborough is for life."

Mr Gray, who said the scheme would hit its target of at least £15,000, said graduating students were supporting it for different reasons. Some wanted to show their appreciation for their time at university, while others aimed to ensure that those following them get the same experience or better.

The university intends to repeat the exercise in 2011.

"The challenge is to find a project that is a good fit with what the student leadership wants and that the students will support," Mr Gray said. "It's a challenge for me to be creative and find something that works for them."

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