Duke senior giving lags behind peers

When it comes to rankings, Duke normally cannot compete with Ivy League schools. And when it comes to squeezing money from graduating seniors, the same is true.

According to statistics published in a letter sent to this year's seniors, "Duke's senior gift participation is pathetic compared to our peers--last year Princeton had 76 percent, Yale had 70 percent and Harvard had 59 percent, while Duke had 34 percent."

This year, the Senior Annual Fund Gift Committee hopes to secure donations from 70 percent of the class, up from 40 percent in previous years. The committee lists $20.02 as the suggested individual donation amount.

Heather Bennett, the annual giving officer in charge of the senior gift, said she was unsure why Duke students give less than those at other schools.

"I think a lot of it is that the tradition of giving at Duke is younger. Those other schools tell their students they will give from the second students set foot on campus," Bennett said, adding that she has heard many students say they do not think they need to contribute.

But many seniors said they would not give money to the Annual Fund in protest of University policies.

"I think the administration isn't responsive enough to student interest, from parking to housing to social life," said senior Chris Duck. "I'm not sure I want to support the University's direction in terms of those things."

Classmate Diana Halstead said she, too, would not donate to the Annual Fund. "I'm never planning on giving money directly to Duke just because I feel I've contributed enough to Duke and because financial aid is not enough, really," she said, adding that students at schools with better financial aid might be more inclined to give.

Others said they did not know where their money would go and that they would prefer to contribute to less wealthy non-profit organizations.

But senior Jonelle Grant said she would definitely give to the fund. She said it was important to her that students who give have their names engraved on the wall of the Alumni Lounge. "That's like leaving your mark at the school," she said.

Grant added that many Duke students forget to give because of other time pressures this time of year.

Senior Abby Field, chair of the gift committee, said the total number of students giving was more important than the total amount donated. "We're shooting for 70 percent, because what we are shooting for is for people to get involved, rather than the money aspect," she said. She noted that the gifts fund scholarships and that students can choose where the money goes within Duke.

She added that the giving statistic in the letter may be imperfect, because it includes all pledges, not just gifts actually received.

The trend of lower giving, in comparison to other schools, extends to young alumni, defined as those who graduated within the last 10 years, Bennett said. She attributed this to Alumni Affairs having difficulty keeping current addresses on these alumni. "I don't know if it's that they don't want to give as much as we can't keep up with them," she said, adding that 26 percent of young alumni contributed last year.


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