Work­ing to reach

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY DANIELLE DOU­GLAS- GABRIEL

younger alumni, col­leges are go­ing on­line to crowdsource gifts.

It took just 43 hours for the Col­lege of the Holy Cross to raise nearly $2 mil­lion.

The small lib­eral arts school in Mas­sachusetts did it with­out bom­bard­ing alumni with phone calls, send­ing out a batch of mail­ers or so­lic­it­ing do­na­tions for seats at a gala event. In­stead, school lead­ers turned to GiveCam­pus.com, a Wash­ing­ton-based crowd­fund­ing web­site that ap­peals to a younger, more tech-savvy au­di­ence.

Get­ting alumni, es­pe­cially younger grad­u­ates, to open their wal­lets is a chal­lenge for many col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties, es­pe­cially those that rely on old­school ap­proaches that land their pitches in voice­mail or the garbage — or, even worse, end up an­noy­ing po­ten­tial donors. Be­cause schools rely on gifts of all sizes to fund schol­ar­ships, ren­o­va­tions and en­dow­ments, di­rect do­na­tions are es­pe­cially crit­i­cal as pub­lic uni­ver­si­ties con­tend with dwin­dling state in­vest­ment and small pri­vate col­leges strug­gle with the rev­enue loss of slug­gish en­roll­ment.

“The qual­ity, the af­ford­abil­ity, the ac­ces­si­bil­ity of ed­u­ca­tion in this country is heav­ily de­pen­dent on pri­vate phil­an­thropic sup­port. And that’s a de­pen­dence that is grow­ing,” said Kestrel Lin­der, co-founder of GiveCam­pus. “The irony is most peo­ple don’t view schools as char­i­ties, and they don’t treat ed­u­ca­tion as a phil­an­thropic cause.”

Although char­i­ta­ble con­tri­bu­tions are on an up­swing gen­er­ally, alumni par­tic­i­pa­tion is on the de­cline, ac­cord­ing to the Coun­cil for Aid to Ed­u­ca­tion. And part of

that is a dis­con­nect be­tween tra­di­tional ap­proaches to en­gag­ing alumni and where young peo­ple spend much of their time: on­line.

“We all live on so­cial me­dia, so get­ting friendly re­minders from your alma mater to give is not only ef­fec­tive but ap­pre­ci­ated,” said Ta­tum McIsaac, who grad­u­ated from Holy Cross in 2001 and do­nated via the GiveCam­pus cam­paign. “It’s a lot eas­ier for me to make a quick con­tri­bu­tion on­line than to wait for an en­ve­lope to ar­rive in the mail and write a check. I don’t even know where my check­book is.”

Lin­der and his part­ner, Michael Kong, came up with the idea for GiveCam­pus in 2014 af­ter read­ing about col­leges hav­ing to lay off staff, raise tu­ition and elim­i­nate classes be­cause of bud­get cuts. The pair un­der­stood that char­i­ta­ble giv­ing could make a dif­fer­ence, but they thought col­lege fundrais­ing tac­tics were too im­per­sonal to at­tract many young grad­u­ates. At least that’s how they felt about the ef­forts of their own alma mater, Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity in Bal­ti­more.

“The mes­sag­ing didn’t re­ally res­onate. It was very im­per­sonal. And for a decade, nei­ther of us had been re­spond­ing, even though we had a strong affin­ity for our school,” Lin­der said, not­ing that many of his friends felt the same way. “Th­ese were peo­ple with means who were sup­port­ing other causes. If a bunch of peo­ple with the ca­pac­ity and in­cli­na­tion to give weren’t giv­ing, some­thing was clearly bro­ken.”

GiveCam­pus has helped more than 70 col­leges, high schools and el­e­men­tary schools raise $10 mil­lion since it was launched last year. The model is based on web­sites such as Kick­starter.com and In­diegogo.com, but GiveCam­pus works di­rectly with schools as a mea­sure of qual­ity con­trol, Lin­der said. Schools are charged a sub­scrip­tion fee based on the amount of money they aim to raise. Sub­scrip­tions start at about $1,000.

Ex­pand­ing the donor base was the key rea­son ad­min­is­tra­tors at Hamil­ton Col­lege reached out to GiveCam­pus ear­lier this year, said Dick Tan­tillo, vice pres­i­dent for com­mu­ni­ca­tions and de­vel- op­ment at the lib­eral arts col­lege in Up­state New York.

“We wanted to en­gage a new gen­er­a­tion of alums who need to be com­mu­ni­cated with in a very dif­fer­ent way,” he said. “We haven’t had im­mense dif­fi­culty, but it has been an area that has been much more chal­leng­ing than in prior years.”

Hamil­ton’s 24-hour Leap Day chal­lenge net­ted $900,000 in do­na­tions from 2,868 peo­ple, quadru­ple the num­ber of alumni who gave when the school ran a sim­i­lar cam­paign by it­self four years ear­lier, Tan­tillo said. The dif­fer­ence be­tween the two cam­paigns, he said, was the use of mul­ti­ple so­cial-me­dia out­lets to drive do­na­tions.

“The real trig­ger was that with so­cial me­dia, donors them­selves be­came ad­vo­cates for the whole en­ter­prise,” said Fred Rogers, di­rec­tor of an­nual giv­ing at Hamil­ton. “Peo­ple were mak­ing gifts and then post­ing to so­cial me­dia that they had done so, and that had an enor­mous snow­ball ef­fect. That’s a new model — sud­denly you’re get­ting donors to be fundrais­ers for you.”

All of the money Hamil­ton raised will be used to fund schol­ar­ships, Tan­tillo said.

Cam­paigns on GiveCam­pus run the gamut from projects that in­clude fund­ing schol­ar­ships and ren­o­vat­ing old li­braries.

Last month, the Col­lege of Wil­liam and Mary in Wil­liams­burg, Va., launched a cam­paign to fund un­der­grad­u­ate re­search fel­low­ships for 87 stu­dents. Each stu­dent had their own mi­cro-cam­paign with the goal of rais­ing $6,000 by April 19. The money will cover the cost of con­duct­ing the re­search un­der the di­rec­tion of a fac­ulty ad­viser over the sum­mer. With nine hours re­main­ing in the cam­paign, the stu­dents had raised more than $300,000.

“We chose the crowd­fund­ing model so the stu­dents could do peer-to-peer and so­cial fundrais­ing on be­half of the pro­gram,” said Mitchell Van­der Vorst, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of mar­ket­ing and ad­vance­ment at Wil­liam and Mary. “It helps us de­moc­ra­tize the process, and stu­dents can share their projects on so­cial me­dia.”

Hear­ing about the suc­cess other col­leges had with one-day giv­ing chal­lenges, Holy Cross wanted to give it a try and re­searched com­pa­nies that had tried sim­i­lar cam­paigns, said Tracy Bar­lok, the school’s vice pres­i­dent of ad­vance­ment. She said an on­line cam­paign was at­trac­tive be­cause it is a sim­ple, con­ve­nient way to reach donors.

“The ease of the plat­form ... on your phone or your iPad, it trans­lated so beau­ti­fully that it just didn’t re­quire us to do all of that pro­gram­ming work ahead of time,” Bar­lok said. “We raised a lot of money in a short time and had a lot of gifts from peo­ple who had never made a do­na­tion be­fore.”

Like those of Hamil­ton and Wil­liam and Mary, Holy Cross alumni could ap­peal di­rectly to their peers to join them in do­nat­ing to their alma mater, al­low­ing a school to cap­i­tal­ize on ac­tive so­cial net­works.

A group of class­mates that grad­u­ated from Holy Cross in 1982 vowed to give a half-mil­lion dol­lars to the Give Pur­ple drive in Fe­bru­ary if a to­tal of 2,500 other alumni also made gifts. They ad­ver­tised the of­fer on Face­book and Twit­ter, the same so­cial me­dia plat­forms that school of­fi­cials used to her­ald the cam­paign. By the end of the 43-hour drive — a nod to school’s found­ing in 1843 — Holy Cross ex­ceeded its goal with the help of 6,226 donors.

“This was a chal­lenge that was mostly about en­gage­ment and donor par­tic­i­pa­tion,” Bar­lok said, not­ing that it was about far more than just money. “It built on the foun­da­tion that we have in terms of the loy­alty, com­pas­sion and com­pet­i­tive­ness of our alumni pop­u­la­tion.”

While a ma­jor­ity of the con­tri­bu­tions came from peo­ple who had given to the school in the past, Holy Cross did win over 122 new donors, more than three­quar­ters of whom grad­u­ated in the past decade. More than 50 per­cent of all do­na­tions came from alumni who grad­u­ated af­ter 1990, with a vast ma­jor­ity of those gifts made on mo­bile de­vices.

“When peo­ple see some­thing come through their feed, it grabs their at­ten­tion. And if its easy to do­nate, they’re go­ing to do it im­me­di­ately,” said Stephanie Jeskey, a mem­ber of the Class of 2001, whose com­pany Em­bryo Cre­ative helped Holy Cross de­sign the cam­paign. “The new crowd­fund­ing method speaks to my gen­er­a­tion.”

Given the suc­cess of the cam­paign, Bar­lok said Holy Cross is con­sid­er­ing us­ing the plat­form later in the year for a se­nior class fundraiser, hop­ing to en­gage a new batch of grad­u­ates be­fore they head out the door.

“The real trig­ger was that with so­cial me­dia, donors them­selves be­came ad­vo­cates for the whole en­ter­prise.”

Fred Rogers, di­rec­tor of an­nual giv­ing at Hamil­ton Col­lege in New York

COL­LEGE OF THE HOLY CROSS

The Col­lege of the Holy Cross raised nearly $2 mil­lion in on­line fundrais­ing.

NIKKI KAHN/THE WASH­ING­TON POST AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

TOP: Kestrel Lin­der is the co-founder of GiveCam­pus.com, a crowd­fund­ing web­site that ap­peals to a younger, more tech-savvy au­di­ence. ABOVE: The Col­lege of Wil­liam andMary launched a cam­paign last month that has raised more than $300,000 to fund...

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