As one of the wealthiest institutions of higher education in the world, Stanford necessarily works to keep its alumni happy and willing to give.
According to the annual financial report from August 31, 2010, Stanford’s endowment amounts to about $13.9 billion. Stanford’s Chief Financial Officer Randy Livingston noted that “most of these funds originated from a donor gift.”
In order to maintain relations, “Alumni are contacted through email, phone calls, and regular mail,” said Rebecca Vogel, assistant vice president of the Office of Development. The university can then communicate with alumni regarding donating, reunions, and other alumni opportunities.
Imani Roach ’04 said that she is contacted by phone “pretty frequently: maybe once a month, once every two months.”
However, Roach’s father Mack Roach III, Stanford Medical School ’79 said that he is contacted less frequently—up to a few times each year. His calls typically concern donations, and typically from a student volunteer calling from the medical school.
Ms. Roach said that these calls always concern donations and like the ones her father receives, are made by students—but for her, the students are from the Stanford Fund’s call center.
And the family has another member currently attending Stanford. Ms. Roach acknowledged that her younger sister’s attendance at Stanford “will encourage me to donate more.”
Mr. Roach added, “I would probably consider donating to Stanford when [my currently enrolled daughter] is done. I don’t see myself donating to the undergraduate school, and paying tuition, and donating to the medical school all at the same time.”
Additionally, alumni reunions—held annually for different sets of classes—are major tools for fundraising. Ms. Roach recalled, “There was a big push leading up to the reunion to donate money.”
Beyond donations though, Mr. Roach saw another area of emphasis in alumni reunions. “The reunions are usually mostly about getting together with classmates that you were friends with during the time you were here,” he said.
Ultimately, Ms. Roach said her “impression of the school is pretty much fixed.” She added that she would give based on her having “an awesome time at Stanford and not so much because of people calling me and trying to do things for me now.”
The Senior Gift
Even current Stanford students are encouraged to start donating now. The Senior Gift campaign is an annual fundraiser organized by senior volunteers to gather funds to be used in various ways for the next incoming class.
Last April, Stanford’s juniors received an email from their class presidents. The email read, “Scholarships are a key example of how a culture of giving provides many deserving students the opportunity to have a life changing experience at Stanford” and included a video about Stanford scholarships.
Now seniors, the same students receive frequent emails encouraging them to donate to the Senior Gift. And January’s Senior Burrito Dinner served as a fundraising event during which organizers encouraged seniors to donate before receiving a burrito.
Like alumni, seniors are never forced to give, but events such as the Senior Burrito Dinner do highlight that Stanford is serious about instituting this culture of alumni giving as early as possible.
And after seniors graduate, the University is persistent in its attempts to solicit alumni donations because the tactic is successful. “A large part of alumni gifts come though annual giving, including gifts made over the phone,” Vogel remarked.
The funds raised by the Senior Gift campaign are donated back to the Stanford Fund. According to Vogel, “The economic recession resulted in steep declines for our endowment at the same time that student need was on the rise. In these circumstances, The Stanford Fund has literally made it possible for the university to sustain our generous financial aid program.”
“The endowment is made up of over 6,000 individual funds. [However], most of the endowment funds are restricted, in that the payout is used to support a particular purpose determined by the donor,” said Livingston. Alumni may donate, but the funds can only be applied to certain activities.
Opportunities for students are mainly available because of generous Stanford alumni. The Bing Overseas Study Program, the Haas Center for Public Service, energy research, and undergraduate scholarships all exist because of past Stanford students who want to give back.
The Stanford Fund is responsible for encouraging annual donations that are allocated towards need-based financial aid, student group funding, and other specific academic programs. 77 percent of the fund is allocated for financial aid.
According to Livingston, “Currently, half of Stanford undergraduates receive financial aid from Stanford, and Stanford Fund donors are helping us to meet that need.”
As a result, not only do charitable alumni make opportunities on campus accessible to students, but alumni also give many students the opportunity to attend Stanford. The university is well-known for its generous financial aid program that makes it possible for more low-income students to attend Stanford.
It is the cycle of giving that allows the University to continue growing and providing opportunities for its students.