Alumni donations sought as state aid diminishes

As public colleges and universities including Geneseo cope with severe budget cuts, they are appealing to alumni for financial donations in increasing numbers.

The State University of New York's operating budget has experienced a state funding reduction of $674 million, representing 30 percent of total state support. Many of the 64 campuses in the system are now searching for supplementary funding from other sources.

Geneseo's Office of Alumni Relations has been actively reaching out to alumni. Through newsletters, the phonathon and an alumni magazine, the college hopes to give alumni reasons to donate. Last year, Geneseo hosted 67 alumni events and reunions across the country to garner money and support.

Alumni donations are important; they make up much of the scholarship fund and finance special opportunities that directly benefit students. Undergraduate student research, internship opportunities, leadership programs and study abroad opportunities would not be able to maintain their current scope and quality were alumni support to deteriorate.

According to a recent article in The New York Times, private universities enjoy a steady amount of alumni support as public colleges and universities struggle.

"We are in the early stages of developing a fundraising structure on campus," said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Carol Long at a Feb. 1 College Senate meeting.

"Private funding for a public university may seem kind of confusing," Long said, "but when you watch public funds go away you begin to understand the need for private funds."

According to Michael Catillaz, vice president of college advancement, "the alumni participation rate has been between 11 and 12 percent giving, and we would like to see this increase."

At Geneseo, the college raises in the range of $2.5 to $3 million per year in private funds; approximately $1.5 million of the money comes from the contributions of alumni.

"We are interested in seeing that number grow because of the constant reduction of state funding," Catillaz said. "[We need] more alumni support and stronger gifts."

According to the article in the Times, though many Geneseo alumni claim to have greatly enjoyed their time at school, many do not give back. Upon being asked to donate, many declined, believing the school to be funded entirely by the state. In reality, the state contributes about 25 percent of financial support, and that percentage is decreasing as the legislature continues to make budget cuts.

Geneseo has approximately $12 million in its endowment; earnings on that money are used to benefit the students. The Geneseo Foundation Board of Directors, comprised of 28 alumni, works to raise this money, develop alumni relations and encourage alumni support of their alma mater.