The discussion of finances at the University of Dallas has encouraged a focus on alumni donation.
“Our [undergraduate] alumni participation rate was about 13 percent last year, which is a little bit lower than what an alumni participation rate would be for a private university like ours,” Executive Director of Alumni Relations and Annual Giving Erin Dougherty said. “The national average right now is about 18 percent in alumni participation.”
In contrast to the alumni giving rate, Dougherty said:
“We have a great participation rate –– up to 47 percent –– among the faculty and staff.”
In spite of the fact that UD has an annual alumni participation rate that is lower than most colleges in America, Dougherty is gracious for those who do participate.
“I would never want there to be a perception that we don’t have alumni who are supporting the university,” Dougherty said. “We definitely do. We are very blessed by that.”
To prove her point, Dougherty provided an example.
“Some alumni in the [alumni Facebook] group heard that alumni participation [in annual donations] was low,” Dougherty said. “So they did an effort and just put it out there — #GoUD — and encouraged their fellow alumni who were members of that Facebook group to make a gift to the university and generated –– out of 191 gifts –– $9,986.30.”
Other alumni have also started their own fundraising movement.
“We have another alumnus, David Whitworth, who runs a website called Catholicdoor.com, which is a great website for purchasing Catholic gifts and spiritual items,” Dougherty said. “He issued [on his website] a 25 day challenge to alumni to give.”
The campaign, which began on April 1 and ended on April 25, explained its mission by stating:
“In an effort to make the University of Dallas a better place, we at Catholic Door are challenging their alumni to give back but get [a 5 percent discount] in return.”
“I would have done this campaign whether [the New College Plan] was an option or not,” David Whitworth said. “I just saw how passionate we are as alumni and wanted to do something to help beyond just commenting on a Facebook group page.”
However, he also admitted, “There is a very strong demand for the classical education beyond my house, and I would rather see UD find a way to help improve the supply of good classical teachers instead of going after a small niche of DFW area students who want to finish their degree and have a small taste of the classical education.”
Although his campaign did not raise a significantly large amount of money, Whitworth considers it a success.
“The dollar amount raised has been pretty low, but any dollar raised for UD from this campaign I consider successful,” Whitworth said.
Whitworth believes lack of communication contributes to UD alumni’s below-average participation.
“I have not received a call from UD in more than five years … likely closer to 10 years,” Whitworth said. “I also don’t have a ton of faith in the leadership of the Advancement Office. [I just don’t believe] that they are doing the absolute best job they could be doing in getting large donations.”
“There’s a lot of attention on increasing the annual alumni participation in [the Office of Advancement,” said Dougherty.“We’ve got renewal appeals going out now.So to people who haven’t been giving for a long time we’re saying, ‘Hey, it’s been 20 years since you last gave to UD. Would you consider renewing your support today?’ We’ve seen great results on that project.”
Andy Farley, the Vice President of the National Alumni Board of UD, said a Facebook group allowed for an increase in participation this year.
“UD’s participation rate last year was 13.20 percent; this year, as of right now, we are roughly at 16 percent,” Farley said. “This was stimulated by a Facebook group, which generated 191 donors.Sustained giving, no matter what the size of the donation, on a monthly or yearly basis, by alumni, faculty, and [the] administration, will start a domino effect. Over time, giving can help offset any shortfall, but that is totally dependent on the amounts we give and whether we can attract more donors by a higher participation rate.”