“The Giving Plea” (June issue) raises an interesting question. Princeton says that it values a high participation rate in its annual fundraising, but does it practice what it preaches? If Princeton truly valued participation, wouldn’t there be a prominent program that recognizes it?
One of my other alma maters, Stanford, has such a program but unfortunately it is weak. Still, the idea is in the right spirit and it has a great name — Stanford Loyal. Regardless of gift size, anyone who makes a gift to the Stanford Fund for three or more consecutive years is deemed Stanford Loyal. What makes this weak is that there is no distinction between someone who has given three years and someone who has given 10, 20, 30, or more years. Also, if a year is skipped that person is no longer Stanford Loyal even if they have given every year but one since graduation. With this program design, one either is or is not Stanford Loyal, a status easily attained but also easily lost. Maybe Stanford’s IT heritage causes it to prefer binary systems.
But Stanford is on to a good idea, one Princeton could take to a much more effective level. Princeton has excellent alumni giving records so it could implement such a program quickly for all existing alumni classes as well as moving forward. Lapel pins for achieving consecutive 5-year Annual Giving participation milestones are something that many alumni would choose to add to their beer jacket or class blazer, not only showing pride but promoting the concept of that everyone should give every year. This also could be introduced to current students who want to get a jump on matters. Someone could be sporting a 5-year pin at their first reunion!
Large donations are important and recognizing gifts by size is appropriate. But if Princeton truly also values participation rates, a second program to recognize that loyalty would encourage and reward true “annual giving.” This also is a more democratic form of recognition that helps build community, something Princeton classes are rightly proud of having but that needs nurturing.
A program recognizing the number of Annual Giving campaigns by 5-year milestones would acknowledge loyalty regardless of a person’s financial means. Then Princeton would practice what it preaches when it comes to participation rates.