College fundraising needs to get with the times.

Nov 18, 2008 • Karen

Six months after graduation, the calls for cash have started. Scripps wants me to give $100 to the general fund. I said no. For one thing, I just spent way too much money on app fees for law school. For another, I have basically zero confidence of the Scripps administration. I'm not giving a single discretionary cent until Dean Wood and Rhonda Risser are gone and I have some confidence that their replacements aren't cloying, paternalistic Umbridges. I know a number of fellow alumnae who feel the same way.

So I was perusing the Scripps website, seeing what opportunities there were for targeted giving. The online form allows you to give to various vague categories ("student/faculty scholarship"); the most specific it gets is it allows you to give to a specific CLORG. But, unless I'm close to campus and talk with current students, how am I supposed to know which of my favorite CLORGS needs investment? And what if there are specific projects that aren't CLORG-based but worth funding? Fundraising works best when the outcome of the money is tangible and exciting. That's what makes special campaigns for new buildings (assuming the building is expected to be useful) work. But you shouldn't just be harnessing that assignment for buildings--there should be a list of smaller (say, < $10,000) projects that alumnae can read about, give to, and propose. Large, wealthy donors can productively give toward specific projects because they can give enough to accomplish the goal all by themselves. (One senior-now-alumnae told me that if she became wealthy and Dean Wood were still in charge, she'd offer to leave all her money to the school if Wood would wear a red clown nose at all college functions. For example.) Less wealthy (especially recent) alumnae need an infrastructure to enable the same. It both bolsters enthusiasm for giving generally and brings those of us who distrust the Scripps administration into the fold.

Basically, the alumnae office needs to start using Fundable, or something like it. Seriously. Obama got elected by harnessing microdonations. Scripps should do the same.