How Should Alumni Think About Giving Back?

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Antonia writes in with a conundrum:

As a graduate of three private schools (K-8, high school, and college), around this time of year I receive a slew of letters, emails, and phone calls asking me to pledge to various annual funds. I’ve always been told by my parents that I should support my former schools financially because alumni giving rates directly correlate to the prestige of any private institution. In other words, by giving even the minimum of $20, I’m ensuring the value of my diploma. Is this true?

Like many other recent graduates, I have a large amount of debt and not a large amount of income, so my budget only allows for very small donations, typically adding up to less than $100. I would rather give my money to a charity that truly needs it than to a school with a multimillion dollar endowment, but, with the amount that I have invested in my education, I want to make sure that my diploma remains valuable. I’m hesitant to believe that my choice to contribute to an annual fund and bump up the alumni giving statistics by a fraction of a percentage point is really that significant, but there’s also the issue of social capital. Since these schools all publish annual reports detailing who gave money, and how much, alumni and parents may see my name if it appears on the list, and this might make them consider me more favorably if I’m networking or asking them for a job. I might also gain more esteem from my peers.

So, to sum up: will giving to my alma mater’s annual fund benefit me more than donating that same small amount of money to a cause which I personally care about, such as Planned Parenthood or a local animal shelter?

I think Antonia has already answered her own question — yes, giving to her alma maters will likely benefit her more than giving to an animal shelter. But she plainly has a number of points worth considering: whether a small gift indeed affects the reputation of her school; whether her being listed as a giver is truly a benefit to her (or if, instead, being listed as a very small giver might actually backfire); whether even a small gift ensures her future offspring a better chance to go to the school; etc., etc., etc.

So let’s open up the comments here and let Antonia know what you think, and how you approach this same dilemma.

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COMMENTS: 47


  1. mike says:

    Same dilemma here for a recent grad of a large public college. I actually laughed out loud when they sent me the first couple of letters asking me to give back. I won’t consider until I can afford to give plus go through an emergency or two and still be fine.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 51 Thumb down 1
  2. John Pula says:

    I, too, get calls from the (public) college from which I graduated. It infuriates me for the same reason that “school spirit” and college branded merchandise do. I paid them to attend their college. I should not have to further pay to advertise their college on my chest/bumper/whatever. They should pay me. They pay for those TV spots and billboards, do they not? If anything, the administration should walk around wearing shirts that say “John is awesome.”

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 71 Thumb down 16
  3. Chris says:

    Instead of giving money back to a general fund, why not apply the money to a specific cause, perhaps one that had the greatest positive impact on your outcome now? So instead of $50 towards a general pool, it could go to say a recreation center or student organization that would normally have to go to the general pool to request money, which they may not get. You’ll have a greater impact on the current programs that developed you and you can directly say what your money was used for.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 35 Thumb down 3
  4. Dan says:

    How about some consideration for diminishing marginal utility?

    Giving Planned Parenthood their ten millionth dollar should do more good than giving Harvard their forty billionth.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 44 Thumb down 25
  5. SomeCallMeTim says:

    My alma mater has been looking for donations since the day I enrolled 30+ years ago. Parents of current students were called requesting donations – all while they were trying to finance $10k/year for their kids. How ridiculous was it? The father of a friend was called and asked to donate – starting at 5% of his income, dropping down to 2.5% then 1%, followed by asking for $1,000, $500, $250. Keep in mind this was the early 80′s when tuition and fees were $10k/yr – that was asking a LOT.

    Since graduating I have donated occasionally. Most letters from them are asking for $$$, but some *expect* it – those I respond to rather harshly demanding an explanation on why they think they have any expectations on MY money after I PAID THEM for their service decades ago. I was pleasantly surprised after the crash in 2008 when the university president sent a letter to all alumni explaining the university’s finances – and not including one single word asking for help.

    Anyways – I get letters and emails, and discard most of them. I would like to give, but feel my money can better help Planned Parenthood, Goodwill, political campaigns to help elect candidates that will help people, or NPR rather than a school that already has a $1.6 Billion endowment.

    One suggestion – pay off your individual debts before giving if your school already has a decent endowment. You will be better able to give later without that debt hanging over your head.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 6
  6. Kevin says:

    I look at giving to my alma mater as a one-stop shop to give to a bunch of causes all at once. By cutting a check to support my (private) university, I am supporting:

    1. Broadening educational opportunities for underprivileged youth (financial aid and scholarships)
    2. Research into cutting edge technologies and scientific discoveries (I’m sure the eventual cure for cancer or AIDS will come from people educated at or working closely with a college)
    3. Undergraduate teaching resources to help ensure that America’s workforce remains competitive over the next 50 years
    4. A robust library to support research and knowledge for many generations to come
    5. Cool new companies like Google and Facebook, both of which were founded at universities.
    And I’m sure I could think of several others…

    And on top of that – it’s knowing that I would not be where I am today if I did not go to my college, and giving them my money is an acknowledgement of that fact. If you believe (as I do) that our universities are one of the key assets of our nation, there are few BETTER places to put your money to work.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 41 Thumb down 37
  7. Brad says:

    My alma mater asks us to at least donate something, even if it’s $1, because the % of alumni that donate is one of the metrics used by the US News and World Report’s ranking system.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 28 Thumb down 8
  8. Iain says:

    As a student who will be graduating this spring, from a university which is prestigious in my country and field: I must confess that I am utterly bewildered by the concept of continuing to give money to my school.

    They have already extracted a great deal of money from me; I know that my tuition exceeds the cost of services rendered by a margin that should make most service providers drool with envy. Whyever would I give them more?

    Loyalty? What has this institution ever done to deserve my loyalty?

    Support of research? I’ve already ‘donated’ plenty to my school’s research programmes; If I wish to continue to support research, I would rather donate to an institution with more specific scope.

    Additional value? What additional value? I already have what I wanted out of our relationship (knowledge). As far as the prestige of the institution goes: first, I sincerely this will continue to provide me any value to me beyond my first job. Second, in principle, I have to question the wisdom of propping up a metric of prestige as flawed and frankly exploitative as alumni giving rates.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 54 Thumb down 11
    • Hunter says:

      Until I read these posts, I thought I was probably the only college graduate in the world who felt that, by God, I paid for every hour of education I got from my alma mater, so why do I owe them another dime? Those who go through trade schools to become plumbers, pilots, draftsmen, mechanics, electricians, computer techs, etc., are not ask to “give back” as far as I know. I assume they paid for what they got, which is a set of skills that are supposedly going to increase their earning power. In other words, they made an investment of time, talent, and mony in their futures, just like college students do.

      With tuition rates as they are these days, I don’t think higher education is subsidized by tax dollars. The concept of “giving back” implies that I, as a student, was given something beyond what I paid for. I don’t think so!

      All of this alumi and alma mater stuff is a bunch of crap that is the afterglow of team spirit, group identity, and all of that type of psycological brainwashing. I had my name removed from the mailing lists of both of the universities I got degrees from, but it took some serious convincing before they agreed to leave me alone.

      I dare say that making donations to a universilty doesn’t reduce studet’s tuition costs. I suspect that most donations go to new buildings, professor salary increases, etc. Students may benefit indirectly from these gifts, but only to a small degree.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 4
  9. Esteban de la Sexface says:

    Since the US News & World Report uses alumni giving percentage as one of the criteria in ranking universities, Antonia’s gift to her alma mater helps make it more prestigious, so it certainly benefits her.

    Also the cost of educating a student (which includes recreational and extracurricular groups/teams) is far more than the cost of tuition, and much of the gap between tuition and actual cost is covered by alumni giving. Without alumni giving, tuition would be much higher.

    Thumb up 6 Thumb down 4
  10. Freddie Fundraiser says:

    Most people don’t realize this, but at a public University, tuition and funding from the state make up a VERY small percentage of the revenue it takes to fund the school. As a Development Officer at one of these schools, I spend countless hours thinking about Antonia’s questions. As a cost v. value comparison, you might compare your cost of tuition to your income potential for your years after college. Presumably, your education has allowed you to earn an income, and over time that income will greatly exceed the cost of your education.
    Large contributions to an organization’s endowment spin off revenue for faculty salaries, scholarships, and other very definable needs. Annual giving is typically what covers the remainder of an organization’s yearly operating expenses. At our school these operating expenses include maintaining our facility and keeping it up-to-date, ensuring our curriculum evolves with the times, and paying for resources that directly support our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Where would our students learn if we didn’t have a building? How would they be prepared for today’s job market if we were still teaching the same courses we taught in the 70s? Without the funding for career counselors, how would our students get the best opportunities for internships and jobs? All of these resources are of vital importance, and contributions to our Annual Fund go to work immediately to help support these crucial needs.
    Although gifts to the Annual Fund are unrestricted, I would make the case that participation in annual giving is perhaps the most tangible way to give back to your school. Your money is spent almost immediately after you give it to fund the school’s most pressing needs. And it does make an impact over multiple areas. It helps to pay for your favorite professor. It helps fund the student organization that you were involved in. It helps provide physical space for students to study and learn. It helps to strengthen the student experience.
    It’s easy to think your $20 doesn’t make a big impact, but what if every donor felt that way, and decided not to invest in the school? Annual giving allows each and every donor to be part of a larger initiative to ensure the success of their alma mater. It’s all about the power of numbers, and small gifts from multiple donors really do compound. The outcome is a series of causes-and-effects that do result in increasing the value of your degree: The school stays strong from year to year – it has the financial resources it needs to educate exceptional graduates – those graduates go out into the world and demonstrate the value and power of their educational experience – their companies are happy and continue to recruit at the school (while also reporting favorable information to ranking organizations) – future students have access to post-college opportunities – everyone is happy and the school’s reputation gets better and better – which means that as a graduate of that school, YOU are more desirable to hiring managers.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 16 Thumb down 15
    • Mike says:

      If you went to a for-profit school, should you also donate?

      If you went to a public elementary/middle/high school, should you donate? Even though they never ask for any money?

      If I received a good education at state university 1 but I would have done even better at state university 2, wouldn’t it be better to donate to state university 2?

      If you received a poor education and/or were advised poorly, should you demand a refund?

      If I buy some tools/computers that allow me to start/expand a business in a highly profitable way, should I “pay back” to Black&Decker or Dell.

      Stop with the guilt trip … IMHO, you should pay for education like you pay for a restaurant meal.

      Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 5
      • Robbie says:

        Mike, I have three elementary school kids that attend public school and believe me, I’m asked to donate. Sometimes on a weekly basis. Bake-sales, jog-a-thon, wrapping paper, silent auctions; I give to them all. Why? Because I care about the education my kids and the kids in my neighborhood are getting. We should all be doing something to help.

        To equate an education to a restaurant meal saddens me.

        Thumb up 5 Thumb down 7
  11. Chris says:

    Whenever I get phone calls from my university requesting money, I simply and politely tell them I will consider making a donation when my student loans have been paid off.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 1
  12. Stefanie says:

    I attended a private school from 6th – 12th grade. Although I am thankful for the education and mentoring I received there, I do not support them financially. My mom paid them and that is enough for me.

    I attended a private university fir 5 years at 14K per year. I paid my way though most of it, taking only 8K in FSL. I received many university scholarships (leadership, residence life, community service, etc) that made being a full-time student possible. I give as generously as I can and hope to increase my giving as I decrease my debt. I give so that future students can have the blessings that I once received. I dont care ifthat goes to a scholarship fund, new dorm furniture or a new building. I trust the stewardship and mission of my alma mater.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1
  13. Airman Spry Shark says:

    At the very least, the prestige of your grade & high school credentials are negligible; once you have a college degree, employers & grad schools don’t care about prior formal education.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  14. Kate B. says:

    You also forget the value of revenge if you cut them off!

    My beloved alma mater went Co-Ed, which I could have lived in (men need education, too), but then they changed the school’s name, sold off priceless artworks, and threw thousands of dollars at a new athletic complex (for the aforementioned boys)–leaving the library just as decrepit as ever, lowered admissions standards the first two years that males were admitted, and generally pissed me and my two sisters who are also alums off. I wish I had been giving regularly because withdrawing that admittedly small gift in the wake of all this would have been _sweet_. So, I give money to my grad school “in memory of” my alma mater.

    Thumb up 8 Thumb down 5
  15. Jobe says:

    Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see.

    Disliked! Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 5
  16. Mike says:

    If the OP is just interested in personal benefit, as it sure sounds from the question framed as helping her in terms of prestige of the school and recognition of donors, give the money. I have to say I find it amusing to think that hiring managers thumb thru lists of those who donated to their college or HS.

    There is something valuable that the OP has to give even though I suspect helping others isn’t part of the calculus. What she has to give that is more valuable than a few dollars is her time. Assuming she is employed or in grad school, she can serve as a useful resource for current students pondering the same path. Many colleges, even the public ones that I’m sure the OP finds well beneath her status, have lists of alums that have volunteered to meet with current students who are interested in learning more about their career. As a recent grad her experience is much more relevant to current students than that of a well meaning alum her parents’ age that graduated in a different era.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
    • Nick says:

      I was going to say, if she wants improve the school’s reputation without giving them money, helping a graduating student find a job (or hiring one) is the best way to go.

      Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  17. Freddie says:

    Most people don’t realize this, but at a public University, tuition and funding from the state make up a VERY small percentage of the revenue it takes to fund the school. As a cost v. value comparison, you might compare your cost of tuition to your income potential for your years after college. Presumably, your education has allowed you to earn an income, and over time that income will greatly exceed the cost of your education.

    Large contributions to an organization’s endowment spin off revenue for faculty salaries, scholarships, and other very definable needs. Annual giving is typically what covers the remainder of an organization’s yearly operating expenses. At my school these operating expenses include maintaining our facility and keeping it up-to-date, ensuring our curriculum evolves with the times, and paying for resources that directly support our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Where would our students learn if we didn’t have a building? How would they be prepared for today’s job market if we were still teaching the same courses we taught in the 70s? Without the funding for career counselors, how would our students get the best opportunities for internships and jobs? All of these resources are of vital importance, and contributions to our Annual Fund go to work immediately to help support these crucial needs.

    Although gifts to the Annual Fund are unrestricted, I would make the case that participation in annual giving is perhaps the most tangible way to give back to your school. Your money is spent almost immediately after you give it to fund the school’s most pressing needs. And it does make an impact over multiple areas. It helps to pay for your favorite professor. It helps fund the student organization that you were involved in. It helps provide physical space for students to study and learn. It helps to strengthen the student experience.

    It’s easy to think your $20 doesn’t make a big impact, but what if every donor felt that way, and decided not to invest in the school? Annual giving allows each and every donor to be part of a larger initiative to ensure the success of their alma mater. It’s all about the power of numbers, and small gifts from multiple donors really do compound. The outcome is a series of causes-and-effects that do result in increasing the value of your degree: The school stays strong from year to year – it has the financial resources it needs to educate exceptional graduates – those graduates go out into the world and demonstrate the value and power of their educational experience – their companies are happy and continue to recruit at the school (while also reporting favorable information to ranking organizations) – future students have access to post-college opportunities – everyone is happy and the school’s reputation gets better and better – which means that as a graduate of that school, YOU are more desirable to hiring managers.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4
  18. Billy D says:

    It occurred to me a couple years ago that it’s generally in my best interest NOT to donate to my university alma mater. Why?

    1. If my alma mater has less money, they will have to raise tuition and/or lower costs. If they raise tuition, fewer students will attend and it will be a more prestigious degree. I don’t want every yahoo in the state to have what I have.

    2. Those graduates are my competition in the job market.

    I suppose it might be in my best interest to donate to specific funds that raise education quality or prestige. But it is probably not in my best interest to give to student scholarships (the most common kind of request I get). I want my potential employers to think I attended the school with $30K annual tuition, even though it was less than $10K when I went there!

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 2
  19. Eric says:

    One of the things that people need to consider before donating is the oppertunity costs associated with giving the money to the school. Was is the next best alternative for donating specifically to the school?
    For instance will you get more out of donating to the school versus paying off your student loans faster (which could lead a decrease in interest you might pay).
    Taking how much money you spent on your education into consideration is a sunk cost, you can’t recoup the amount of money you have already spent on your education; however, donating to the school can lead to your degree looking more valuable.

    From a personal standpoint, until I know specifically what the donation will be used for, I will not donate back to my university.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
  20. PM24 says:

    It’s not just the alumni…….I am the father of an undergraduate at a horrifically overpriced and elite (just ask them) university. Beyond the 50+ large I need to come up with each year, we are now asked to contribute to something called a “parents fund.” I do get it: with an income of $200k a year I will take the hit to send my kid to this school, and I have made peace with that fact. Somehow this asking for another few hundred bucks just sticks in my craw.

    I have made clear to my child that he doesn’t owe this school anything after graduation; his education was bought and paid for at full retail.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2
    • Julie says:

      This argues for the value of giving scholarships – a student whose university made a difference to them at an important time will think of them far more fondly than a student who can buy any education they want.

      I understand the “doesn’t owe” bit – but does your ability to pay “full retail” mean that there are no reasons to give more? Instilling in your son a sense of gratitude and of being fortunate may be a good idea; giving to a university is a great way to give other students the opportunity their parents may not be able to afford them.

      Thumb up 4 Thumb down 6
  21. reality says:

    The reality is that all charitable giving is self-interested. It’s either about signalling that you’re a good person or more tangible benefits.
    If you truly are not self-interested then you’d donate all spare funds to a charity that is highly effective at impacting the most lives possible (perhaps via one of givewell.org’s researched charities). Even there you’re signalling something.
    I think the best way to donate is to acknowledge that you’re self interested and have many ways of satisfying your utility. You then can divide your charitable giving by those interests into a portfolio, so maybe $20 goes to your college, $50 goes to your friend’s walkathon, $30 goes to charities with proven track records of effectiveness. Trying to pretend that charity is true altruism is just confusing and leads to indecision.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4
    • Erik Jensen says:

      I think that there is a self-interested component to some (not all) charitable giving and I am certainly guilty of this. In my case, I give to funds that directly benefit my major. I’m sure that part of my motivation is to maintain good relationships in case I should need a favor from a former professor. I also give to the foundation of my employer, a college. I know that administrators looks at the list of donors and it can’t hurt to be seen as one of the good guys. My advise to the donor would be to donate to something very specific. It can be both emotionally satisfying and provide some social insurance.

      I would add that it makes no sense to donate when you have a significant burden of educational or consumer debt. Pay that stuff off quickly and then be pseudo-magnanimous.

      Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  22. James says:

    I get the begging calls from my university (got one last night, in fact) even though I’m still a PhD student, which seems to say something about the basic competence of their fundraising department.

    I might not be nearly so reluctant to donate if they didn’t keep cutting academic programs in order to provide even more money to their already over-funded athletic programs.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 2
  23. Travis says:

    I personally take a pragmatic approach to all of my giving. Having recently graduated with a debt of over $100k, I find it almost insulting that my alma matter would ask for a contribution in such a dire economy. It seems … weird that they would extract so much out of students in the form of 6 digit tuitions, and then STILL need their support IMMEDIATELY after graduation…

    I think it’s also fiscally irresponsible to give money when you are deeply in debt. Once my education pays for itself, and I’ve been able to pay off my loans and have some expendable income, then and only then will actually giving to my alma matter come into the picture for me.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0
  24. Doug Kiley says:

    If you are proud of your alma mater and the fond memories from there outweigh the negative ones, then send $20. Plain and simple.

    “I’m hesitant to believe that my choice to contribute to an annual fund and bump up the alumni giving statistics by a fraction of a percentage point is really that significant”

    That fraction is significant! Your alma mater borrows from a bank. Let’s say the bank sees that 75% of the class of 2005 gave a modest sum. While the “yield” from that class is modest in 2012, said bank knows the yield in 2030 will be substantial since that class clearly is proud/nostalgic of their alma mater! (and most likely will still be proud in 2030) Therefore, the alma mater is a safer bet for the bank. Then the alma mater has a lower interest rate equaling thousands of dollars saved.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 5
  25. Joe Lavelle says:

    Where and how to give is always a very personal decision. I believe Antonia has analyzed her situation well and will be well served by continuing to donate to her prior schools.

    For anyone interested in learning more about the in’s and out’s of Giving, Laura Arrillaga-Andreessen (Netscape founder Marc Andreessen‘s wife) just published a GREAT book (Giving 2.0) which I recently reviewed here: http://actasifblog.com/2011/12/everything-that-you-need-to-know-about-giving-more-effectively/

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1
  26. Javier says:

    Last year I donated almost $250.00 to several causes and donations, but when I’m expected by my alma mater to donate at least $100.00, I tear the envelope and other papers inside, it really ticks me off. I feel my studies haven´t paid off either. I can give to the needed, not to the ones expecting something back.

    Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1
  27. uthor says:

    Maybe it’s different in other industries, but the longer I work, the less important my degree is. Work experience trumps that. So, while donating may make the school more prestigious, it would give little benefit to me.

    My school mostly stopped asking me for money directly, but has tried to sell me car insurance in the past. That always seemed … odd.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0
  28. Cañada Kid says:

    I believe this conundrum is very similar to whether one should vote in Presidential elections: donating (at least, at her amount) would benefit both her and the institution very little, meaning she shouldn’t donate. However, if everyone begins to think and act the same way, her donations will begin to actually have an impact on her and the college. One of those paradoxes, I suppose.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0
  29. Rob Juniper says:

    I spent $160,000 and 4 years at an “elite” liberal arts college. Nine months after graduation I’m working in a call center making a little over minimum wage. I won’t give them a cent.

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
  30. mfw13 says:

    If you care about education, giving to an organization like Donors Choose (www.donorschoose.org) gives you much more bang for the buck than giving to an individual school. The money goes directly to classroom teachers for use on specific projects, not into a black hole of bureaucracy.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  31. cj says:

    I look at what they historically have spent money on before considering making donations. My high school, nice as it was, was buying cool new computer systems with flat screens back when flat screens were new and spendy. Not really convincing me that they have a strong need for funding when they’re blowing it on a room full of something new and trendy while other school systems struggle to simply get a 5 year old system in a classroom.

    And my college life? They completely nickel and dimed me the entire time I was there, still technically owe me some money after returning items I had to pay a deposit on…and what did they spend all this money on? Buildings? Improving education quality? No…converting parking spaces to large acre ‘green spaces’, and building a $1 million wall around the campus to make it feel like a community.

    So I make sure donations go to facilities that need it, can use it…or go directly to those who benefit (e.g. scholarship funds).

    Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1
  32. Steve O says:

    I think the primary reason to give to your alma mater is because it makes you feel good. You have already contributed by 1) giving them money, 2) adding to their enrollment and alumni network, and likely by 3) enriching their classrooms as well as 4) furthering their research.

    Unless your school was somehow really outstanding AND truly needs money, give to someone who can use it. If you have more than a few dollars to spend and you want to help advance education, contribute to a scholarship fund, or start your own.

    Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0
  33. Antonia says:

    Thank you all for your answers to my original question. I have gained a lot of very helpful insights into my dilemma, although I’m not really sure if there is a clear right answer.
    Based on what several people suggested, I’m going to wait until I’ve paid off my student loans in full before I make any donations. At that point, I should be better able to assess what benefits my education has given me, and decide how I want to allocate my money.

    Well-loved. Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 1
  34. J says:

    I donate to my undergraduate institution (which happens to not participate in US News rankings also) because financial aid there is entirely need based so I feel like I am helping deserving human beings get a more affordable, very high quality education. Also, I was fortunate enough to have had my college paid for by a relative. Otherwise, I would have waited until the student loans were paid off to donate.

    I do NOT donate to my graduate institution (arguably a more prestigious school and very much a rankings participant) largely because I was not impressed by the wisdom of their distribution of merit-based scholarships during my time there. Also, I do donate a lot of my time to running the local alumni association for this school. I figure that plus the $100k in tuition I just gave them is enough for now.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
  35. Bruce says:

    I don’t mind contributing to my college or grad school, as they both have done a good job in my education. In addition, maintaining the “halo effect” associated with those degrees is worth it as from an investment perspective well as payback for the scholarship I received as an undergraduate viewed retrospectively.
    That said, what grinds my gears (to quote Peter Griffin of Family Guy) is getting calls from my daughter’s college for contributions to their foundation before she has even graduated. She goes to a state college (not our stated d’oh) so we pay cash for her education.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1
  36. Marian says:

    Give to either. Most organizations, including the SPCA, Planned Parenthood, and colleges publicize their donors. Her name on any list may impress the big money givers at the organization.

    I do give to my college, but I give to the actual division that I graduated from in hopes that the money goes into education and not to the football team.

    Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0
  37. Jon Hahn says:

    Carleton College consistently has one of the highest alumni giving rates of any college. They also have the highest percentage of intercollegiate ultimate frisbee players in the nation, about 7 percent of the student body. I don’t really see a correlation there, but I figured I’d point out both facts.

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  38. Phil says:

    If it benefits her, it is hardly charity, but rather an investment. Her choice is meaningful only if she is seeking ways to get the most personal benefit from her tax deduction. Charity is supposed to be about selfLESSness. There is no dilemma. Do both.

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  39. Ravi Balgi says:

    Schools and colleges also do have specific endowment needs.
    for eg. sponsor a child’s education with the child’s credentials put up
    or sponsor a classroom equipment.
    One of the most interesting ones was ‘Sponsor a mile’ where students who are doing well in sports and needed equipment and training were sponsored by their alumni.

    Such ways of giving back indeed look great and more importantly are great
    my two cents

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  40. Current Student says:

    As a current graduate student, I’m receiving these solicitations from my undergrad university but too far in debt (already) to make a contribution. However, I have been thinking about how I would want to do so, because my own debt makes me appreciate how worthwhile scholarships can be. Things that have come to mind:
    -If I give to the school in general, I get very little say in what that money is used for. It might get put into a new building (my fear is an unnecessary athletic facility, despite AAs allegedly being fiscally separate from the educational aspect) or just a general scholarship fund. I would much rather earmark it somehow so that a deserving but poor student would be able to attend.
    -I can’t help but feel like the more money a school receives, the more likely it is to result in inflation of tuition, technology fees, student health fees, etc…
    -So I think my eventual conclusion is that I should contact members of clubs and try to support them directly. For example, offer $500 to an outdoor club to promote an alternative spring break, or to a club sport in which I participated, either to reduce dues for all members, or to give as an informal “scholarship” to a member who needs it. In that way, I can aid the students and causes with which I identify.

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  41. Sunny says:

    I notice my fellow classmates are resentful and annoyed when our school telemarketers start calling for donations but I am a big believer on alumni giving especially since I was a scholarship and fellowship student. I known I would not be where I am today without the donations from donors. It was a struggle. I had to work several part-time jobs (including calling alumni for money) and apply for scholarships in order to go to college.

    Now, a college in China has asked me to take part in scholarship and fellowship panels where I have to decide which cases are the most deserving. (600 applicants and only 10 awards. These are extreme hardship cases where they have no or one parent and earn less than 12,000 RMB/about $2,000 a year). What factors should I consider to determine who should be awarded? The number of family members who have gone to college? The expenses to income ratio? I want to be able to pick the students that I know will likely “pay it forward” after they graduate.

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