Annual Giving set another record. We talked to the people who made it happen.| Aug 24, 2017
When the numbers were finally in, the University community had done it again: Annual Giving had set another record campaign total, raising $74.9 million, the highest total in Annual Giving history, and the first year it raised over $70 million.
Annual Giving has supported many unique programs since 1940, enabling the University to provide unparalleled intellectual opportunities and need-based financial aid. According to the official campaign website, undergraduate alumni accounted for more than 80 percent of the total amount raised, with the Class of 1967 raising the greatest amount — more than $11 million. This cycle marks the sixth consecutive year that graduate alumni have raised more than $1.5 million, totaling $1,684,413 from 2,862 donors, and the tenth consecutive year University parents have contributed more than $2 million, totaling $2,666,914.
Previous years’ Annual Giving has funded programs including Bridge Year, financial aid, the Princeton Neuroscience Institute, research stipends, and residential college activities, among other programs. Unrestricted funds — gifts not specifically designated — are included in the annual operating budget.
The 'Prince' talked to the people who helped get the job done. Here’s how they raised enough to buy 7.1 million pounds of dried mango chunks at Walmart. We suspect that the University won’t be buying very many mangoes with the money, however.
“TigerCall is an outreach program based out of the Office of Annual Giving [which] primarily focuses on supporting Annual Giving’s participation goal every year through their outreach efforts to parents and alumni. Two of my biggest responsibilities with TigerCall are data management and caller training. I maintain and segment the data to organize the calling structure for the fiscal year, [and] also oversee all of the caller training, to make sure every caller who joins TigerCall is set up for success.
TigerCall benefits Princeton, because the student callers are able to continue building the relationship between alumni and parents with Princeton. Your Princeton relationship does not end when you graduate, and TigerCall is one great way to make sure alumni and parents are connected to campus each year through a student perspective.”
— Sara Cosgrove, TigerCall Manager
“I’ve had quite a few fun conversations with alumni that were excited to talk. One time, mentioning that I took a freshman seminar about comics and graphic novels, I had a half-hour conversation with a graduate about our favorite books and comics. That was a lot of fun! Our supervisor has worked really hard to create shift times that will successfully reach many alumni across the world, and still are convenient for student schedules, so I hope we can break the record again this year!”
— Karissa Lowe ’20
“Working at TigerCall involves calling alumni and parents of current students to pitch the Annual Fund. It isn’t just about asking for money, though. Calling alumni is a nice way to reconnect them with their university and hear about their experience as a student while sharing my experience at Princeton. The calls I’m most proud of are the ones that resulted in $10 or $15 gifts. Most of the bigger donors give every year regardless of TigerCall, but a lot of alumni need to be swayed. I think a lot of people simply forget about the Annual Fund, or they need a little push to convince them that it’s ok for them not to donate an entire building to make a contribution. I also think it’s nice for alumni to learn about what things are like on campus nowadays.
At TigerCall, I honestly felt like I was directly helping to foster school spirit. I think TigerCall has done a good job of consistently outdoing itself, so I wouldn’t be surprised if TigerCall pushed the bar even higher this year. We always look for ways to improve, and this past year I noticed a more proactive strategy of following up with alumni after phone calls.”
— Berthy Feng ’19
(Feng is a sports writer for the 'Prince.')
“My job entailed calling alumni, stretching from the Class of 2016 all the way back to the ‘50s, to update them on campus happenings and ask them if they would like to make a monetary gift to the University’s unrestricted funds. Sometimes the most memorable calls are the ones where you don’t actually receive a gift but the conversation more than makes up for it. I was calling an older alum. He graduated in the ‘50s, I believe, and he kept me on the phone for over half an hour — even after my shift had ended — talking to me about everything from the Vietnam and Korean Wars to the flowers in the garden of his assisted living facility, and especially about how annoying it can be to live with dementia. He was a very sweet older man, and even though he didn’t have the finances to give any money to Princeton at the time of the call, I was glad he decided to share so many of his life stories with me.
When I heard about the new record that was set this year, I felt really good about the fact that I was able to help make it happen. I know that by doing this work, we are helping to keep Princeton as financially feasible as possible for students, like me, who need it. In addition to making it possible for more students to attend, I know that through TigerCall we are helping to keep the experience that students have here as amazing as possible, which I think is very important.”
— Aoife Bennett ’20
"Even though I’m just a sophomore, I think that Princeton has already done a lot for me and I think by working at TigerCall I’m helping to return that favor. At TigerCall we use the word gift instead of donation, and I think that’s because we see giving to Princeton not so much as a form of charity, but rather as a way of showing your appreciation for this wonderful family that we’ve all been lucky enough to be a part of and of helping ensure that future generations of Tigers will have the same great experience.
Everyone who works at TigerCall is really enthusiastic and our alumni are really loyal, so it doesn’t surprise me that we have such an incredible alumni donation rate. I’m optimistic that we can beat it next year. We’ll be changing up the calling schedule to give the West Coast some more attention and replacing some shifts that weren’t as high-yielding.”
— Alexander Helman ’20
“I spent six hours per week working shifts at TigerCall, so about 90 hours per semester. I’ve had many positive calls before but one of the most memorable calls I had was just a month into President Trump being elected. The reason it was so memorable was because the alum that I had spoken with was a member of the EPA. In the conversation we had, he was distraught and fearful for his job and family, for his agency, and for the environment. It hit me especially hard because the election was definitely an emotional time for many of us, but this was the first occasion in which I would come in contact with someone being directly affected by Trump’s presidency. I was stunned in the call and didn’t really know what to say but I made sure to share with him mine and many others’ appreciation for his work.
TigerCall is an important job because not only is it maintaining the relationship between the University and the alumni, but it’s also a great way for alumni to stay engaged with the current Princeton community. Also, all the gifts go to Princeton’s Annual Fund which supports financial aid as well as all the funds that students use for study breaks, research, and other events on campus which are definitely a huge part of the Princeton experience!”
— Katie Zhou ’20