Don't wait until students graduate, fundraisers told

Emulate US institutions’ efforts to ‘shape lifelong donors’ while they are still undergraduates, Case report says

June 5, 2014

Universities are being urged to ask their students for donations before they have even graduated and to spend more money in an attempt to “shape” them into “lifelong donors”.

Although the concept of “student philanthropy” originated in the US, it is attracting increasing interest at universities in the UK.

A new survey of 211 higher education institutions around the world found that two-thirds of them ran programmes focused on seeking donations from current students and encouraging them to give after graduation.

The report, Schooled in Giving, was carried out in the US by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education and fundraising consultants Campbell & Company, and published in the May/June issue of Case’s magazine Currents.

At Kansas State University, 8,000 students, a third of the student body, have donated money this year to help peers facing “financial emergencies”.

To encourage students to give, the university has about 900 “student ambassadors” who seek to “engage in casual conversations with their peers in classrooms, clubs, and organizations throughout the year, discussing how students can help each other and respond to a university need”.

About one in eight of the institutions surveyed for the Case report publicised “tuition-free day” to mark the point in the academic year when tuition fees stopped covering the cost of students’ education, thereby highlighting the need for philanthropic support.

But the amount of money spent on encouraging student philanthropy was less than $5,000 (£3,000) a year at more than two-thirds of the institutions surveyed. The report noted that universities’ endeavours in the area were “characterized by limited financial resources, minimal staffing, and lacklustre efforts at student engagement”.

Peter Fissinger, Campbell & Company’s chief executive, is quoted as saying: “We’ve only begun to examine whether and how we can help shape lifelong donors to colleges and universities.”

Rob Henry, Case’s executive director of emerging constituencies and online programmes, said that although most student philanthropy programmes were in the US, representatives from the University of Brighton and University College London had attended conferences on the topic in 2013 and 2014.

He added that while students were “not necessarily annoyed” at being asked for money while still studying, institutions “have to do a better job of building the case for why students should give when they are burdened with student loans”.

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