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October 27, 2015

11:05 AM

Last week the College of William and Mary publicly launched its official fundraising campaign: “For the Bold: The Campaign for William and Mary.” The fundraising campaign is embarking on the ambitious goal of raising $1 billion, $532 million of which has already been received since the campaign’s inception in 2011.

For the Bold also aims to increase alumni engagement, with a target of a 40 percent giving rate for undergraduate alumni by 2020. Currently, the alumni participation rate via donations hovers around 27.1 percent.

Higher education funding in general, at both the state and federal levels, is low; the College receives about a mere 12 percent of its budget from the state, enough to barely retain a public university classification.

While it’s not uncommon to hear a bit of grumbling over colleges seeking donations, it should be understood that this campaign is in fact a positive move on the part of the College. Higher education funding in general, at both the state and federal levels, is low; the College receives about a mere 12 percent of its budget from the state, enough to barely retain a public university classification. With this limited gift from the state, the College must raise money. Given the growing budgetary constraints in all departments of the College, any amount of fundraising helps anyone at the school either by indirectly freeing up other resources or directly contributing.

The ambition behind this campaign is also admirable. Because the College is technically a public institution, there are caps to how much money it can raise itself without losing any of its state funding. But, as explained above, the money from the state is small and continually dwindling. The scope of this project is to raise much needed funds predominantly for scholarships and hiring staff, and an ambitious goal of $1 billion recognizes the importance of these areas and reaffirms the College’s commitment to prioritize their funding. The school should be trying to raise as much money as it can without losing its state funding, and the choice of $1 billion as its target should be commended.

After establishing a decent understanding of this breakdown, then a decision can be made over how appropriate allocations are given the needs of the College, and the issue of alumni and donor priorities can be discussed.

Students and other members of the community should not be jaded about the College asking for money. Too often the question arises of “If X gets funding why doesn’t Y?” The frank answer to that question is because alumni have priorities for what is important to them. However, often the grumbling also comes from uninformed opinions of how money is allocated and assumptions over these alumni priorities. Students should not be quick to assume that donations will only service the athletics program over the English department. Instead, they should use the resources the College provides, such as the breakdown of the $1 billion, to inform their opinions of allocation and donor priorities. After establishing a decent understanding of this breakdown, then a decision can be made over how appropriate allocations are given the needs of the College, and the issue of alumni and donor priorities can be discussed. Generally speaking, however, the process of raising money should not be dissuaded or condemned as a slimy bit of alumni schmoozing by ill-informed ideas of where money may or may not be going.

Áine Cain recused herself from this Staff Editorial.

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  • Flat Hat Editorial Board

The Flat Hat Editorial Board is elected by The Flat Hat's section editors and executive staff. The staff editorial represents the opinion of The Flat Hat.

  • John Kean

    http://gadfly.x10.bz/home/gadflyx1/public_html/don-039-t-question-it

    It’s interesting that an article by one of the “grumblers” gives better indication of where Bold funding will be allocated than this editorial. More interesting is that “the alumni have priorities for what is important to them” is considered a legitimate argument against paying attention to the priorities of students living and learning here, right now. It’s not like the administrators have no influence over where donors pledge their money, they court specific funds all the time. And yet students who have asked over and over for administrators to shift focus to issues that desperately affect the community and now express frustration at the fact that a historic fundraiser reflects more of the same business model, more focused on a large endowment than the needs of a vocal student body, are written off as “ill-informed” nay-sayers.

    We pay dearly through our tuitions to be members of the Tribe rather than elsewhere. We care about this place, because it is ours, our home, our lives. And perhaps the ~$120,000 an in-state student (let alone the out-of-staters) will contribute to the College over their four years is taken for granted by administrators, but I believe that that much money gives each of a voice, and I will shout at the top of my lungs if I believe that my voice needs to be heard.

    Do not dare to infantilize your peers and yourselves with patronizing rhetoric and smug, poorly considered cartoons.