Have BMW, will invest in alma mater

September 2, 2005

Academic institutions must do much more to promote giving from their graduates, a fundraising expert said this week.

Adrian Beney (pictured) told a meeting of university officials involved in the marketing and fundraising work that universities in the UK were failing to tap alumni for donations.

"If we were in the US, we would be asking all our graduates to give all the time. The reason we do not is that we don't have the budgets," he told the Europe conference of the Council for Advancement and Support of Education held at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

"I'm trying to get people to think in a more sophisticated way about where the money actually is and where people are spending their money."

Mr Beney has just left Durham University, where he was deputy director of development and alumni relations, after more than 20 years to become a consultant with the development company Iain Moore Associates.

He said there was a new generation of potential donors - twenty-something BMW owners. Some graduates might have considerable amounts of disposable income at a surprisingly young age: for example, those who had made "ludicrous amounts of money in hedge funds", he added.

But even if new graduates were not high earners, many were delaying settling down, taking on a mortgage and having children.

Mr Beney said: "The money left over at the end of the month is theirs to do what they want with. I reckon most graduates on a salary could give £5 a month. If you get enough people doing it, it's a lot of money."

Mr Beney said Durham raised hundreds of thousands of pounds annually from small gifts. Another benefit of targeting new graduates was that it "trained" them to be donors.

He added that universities no longer had to make the case for donations, since modern undergraduates understood the financial pressures facing higher education.

New graduates have traditionally not been targeted by universities'

fundraising campaigns. But a government-commissioned report, chaired by Bristol University vice-chancellor Eric Thomas, last year urged institutions to develop stronger relationships with alumni to improve donations.

Richard Lambert, who chaired a separate report on university-business links, called on universities to "get serious" about alumni donations.

Mr Beney said greater sophistication was needed when dealing with different age groups. "I think we are sometimes a bit naive in fundraising because of our own assumptions about how people think," he said.

"You have to ask: 'Is their brain wired like mine, like my parents' or like my kids'? Older people will respect authority, baby boomers will respect but question it. Generation X will test it and - if it fits in with what they want -they'll do it."

olga.wojtas@thes.co.uk

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