The University’s 2016–17 Annual Giving campaign was a tale of two numbers. The good news: The amount raised jumped 26.2 percent from the previous year to a record $74.9 million. Leading the way was the 50th-reunion Class of ’67, which raised $11 million, more than any class in Princeton history. The Class of ’87 broke the 30th-reunion record with $10 million, and the 25th-reunion Class of ’92 brought in $9.6 million.
At the same time, the percentage of undergraduate alumni who donated slipped to 56.8 percent, down from 58.4 percent last year and the lowest figure in 22 years. William M. Hardt ’63, assistant vice president for Annual Giving, said that while the University hopes to see the participation rate go up each year, the rate for 2016–17 “is a remarkable total on any absolute level.” In the past three decades, the rate has ranged from 54.8 percent to 61.4 percent.
Factors include the mood of the country — political and economic anxieties — as well as Princeton matters, Hardt said. “There are always campus controversies, and in some cases misimpressions,” he said, noting erroneous media accounts that the University had enacted a speech code banning the use of the word “man.”
Alumni volunteers can clarify issues and offer other perspectives, he said, “but only if they are able to reach people personally and learn what their concerns are.” That has become more difficult, he said: Many people don’t answer the phone because of telemarketing, and younger people rely more on texting and social media.