A few weeks ago, I read with interest an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. I live in the United Kingdom, about 40 minutes south of London, so Wisconsin is quite far from my home. But from unusually sunny Surrey, I was asking myself the same question being asked in Wisconsin: How soon is too soon to ask alumni for donations?
There is certainly a perception here in the UK that we shouldn’t ask “too soon” because current students and recent graduates are focused on the high cost they’ve paid to attend university, not on how they can “give back.” But is there really any harm in asking? Sara Harvey, senior director of annual campaigns in Marquette’s Office of University Advancement, points out that “those who give as seniors are more likely to continue giving as alums.” If that’s the case, and there’s a chance that by asking we can tap into a cohort of active students who are keen to continue their relationship with their university by giving, either in their final year, or as new alumni, is there really any harm?
I have been a faithful donor to my own undergraduate university, and I asked myself why as I read this article. It’s because I was asked, and I was asked in my final year of study. Rather than be offended, I was excited about being included, about being asked to join a special group of individuals who believed there was value in giving back. My gift was small, but it counted. I wonder if we’d be surprised to find that today’s students are not so unlike I was – eager to be counted and eager to be asked. Well, I guess we’ll only know if we ask. So what’s the harm in asking?