The Importance of Building a Culture of Philanthropy

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sidewalk Alumni Gift Sign 200.jpgYou probably noticed the signs and sidewalk chalk messages during the first week of school. They were part of an educational campaign the Annual Giving Office sponsors to help students understand the impact of gifts from alumni and friends of IUP. It's part of an effort to build a culture of philanthropic giving on campus. Students who understand how private gifts affect their education are more likely to understand why we ask them to give when they become alumni--and then respond by giving.

Activity like this is essential to the fund-raising process, and schools like IUP--state-owned institutions--have an additional hump to overcome, because of a misperception that we are fully funded by the commonwealth. Earlier this year, the New York Times ran an article that included interviews with administrators from numerous public universities. It described the misperception well:

When the State University of New York at Geneseo surveyed its alumni three years ago as part of a plan to increase fund-raising, the initial response was heartening. Former students described their time there with words like "love" and "the best four years." Then came what one administrator, Michael J. Catillaz, called "the cold shower." Asked if they would donate, almost all said they thought the university was financed entirely by the state. The state's contribution was actually 25 percent, and it has been dropping ever since.

"Inviting alumni in large numbers to actively support the college is a foreign notion," said Mr. Catillaz, the vice president for college advancement.

In truth, some of our current students have been inspired to give or facilitate philanthropic action on behalf of the university. The IUP Ambassadors, for example, conducted numerous fund-raisers to name a room in the new Kovalchick Complex. Members of the IUP History Club work tirelessly to make sure the Eric Slebodnik Memorial Scholarship, housed in the Foundation for IUP and established in memory of a student who died in the line of duty in Iraq, continues to help a deserving student. These same students also raise money for the Jack Kadlubowski Scholarship, established in memory of a late faculty member. There are other examples, but the point is that instilling in students the importance of the impact private gifts have will, we hope, reap long-term rewards after they leave us for the greater world.

Stories about student and alumni philanthropy that we can share with funding agencies and large-gift prospects often inspire them to also give. When members of the campus community give, they are expressing their belief in the institution. That's a powerful thing. After all, charity does begin at home.

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This page contains a single entry by Regan Houser published on September 21, 2011 6:00 AM.

Chad Hurley's New Delicious Venture was the previous entry in this blog.

Celebrating the Constitution at IUP is the next entry in this blog.

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