Drop in giving forces College to rethink approach

The Annual Fund for Geneseo, which includes private gifts and donations to the College, has seen a significant decrease in revenue over the past few years, following the trend at colleges all over the nation.

According to the College Office of Institutional Research, during the 2001-2002 academic year, Geneseo generated $1,748,074 in private gifts, grants and contracts. During the 2002-2003 year, that number dropped to $1,585,438, followed by a change to $1,233,143 in 2003-2004 and $1,204,119 in 2004-2005.

The Geneseo Foundation, the department in charge of the Annual Fund has taken many steps toward reversing the decline in monetary donations.

According to Assistant Vice President for College Advancement Kimberly Faber, although the number of individuals giving money has dropped over the past few years, gifts from other sources such as corporations have increased. Because of this, the number of scholarships and faculty research grants has not suffered. In fact, large gifts from corporations have allowed the College to create more awards that target specific student groups.

The Geneseo Foundation itself has seen many staff changes, which has helped strengthen the major gift program. Faber noted that many of the positive changes in the program can be attributed to the strong leadership of new Director of the Fund for Geneseo Jason Amore.

Other advances have been made in re-evaluating fundraising tactics, including adding direct mailing to alumni in addition to the pre-existing "phonathon" program, in which alumni are contacted via telephone. More emphasis has been placed on the Senior Challenge program that raises money for a gift for the College. The hope is that through becoming involved in fundraising while still enrolled in Geneseo, the newest alumni will keep donations to the College in mind.

Eve Elzenga, director of donor relations, conducts one-on-one meetings with alumni who have a history of generosity, or those with high-paying careers. These personal interactions are aimed at reviving the annual private gifts and donations for the College.

The department has also tried to appeal to specific interests. An Athletes Fund has been established to attract those who are interested in supporting sports teams at the College. Money contributed to this program will go to new uniforms, training equipment, and travel expenses. Parents of Geneseo students are also being urged to donate to a Parent Fund, which would be used to finance programs directly benefiting students, including travel grants and summer fellowships.

The newest section developed by the Foundation is the Greek Fund, which the staff hopes will interest alumni formerly involved in Greek organizations. Money donated would be used strictly to pay for programs and trips supporting and benefiting Geneseo fraternities and sororities. The anticipation is that, because of the role Greek life plays in Geneseo, this particular group of alumni will be more eager to donate money.