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Alumni from the 90s dominate donations in the past year

A big square red brick building with windows captured from an angle.  Two windows are missing and there is wood over them
PRINCO, the home of Princeton’s investment center.
Ammaar Alam / The Daily Princetonian

A whopping $73,785,175 was raised from donors in the past fiscal year, according to the Annual Giving Office. In all, 47.5 percent of the group that the University identified as potential donors participated, ranging from the Class of 1937 to the Class of 2022. Alumni are automatically considered potential donors, although they can be removed from the potential donor list under certain circumstances. According to the volunteer chair of the University-wide Annual Giving Committee, Chris Olofson ’92, “more than 37,000 gifts were made to the volunteer-led Annual Giving Campaign” last year.

Of the donations, nearly $60 million came from undergraduate alumni, with the remainder coming from graduate alumni, parents of alumni, gifts in memoriam, matching gifts, and other specialized gifts to the University.

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Olofson said that the Annual Giving Committee’s goal is to “support current students through unrestricted gifts which are applied to the University’s highest priorities, such as Princeton’s leading no-loan financial aid program, faculty recruitment, programs for student wellbeing, and investments in the student experience.” In other words, these funds “complement the endowment” and cannot be directed toward one particular cause.

According to Princeton’s most recent Annual Giving Impact Report, funds from Annual Giving went towards funding projects such as Learning and Education through Service (LENS), a program that provides support for students seeking service opportunities, as well as funding for Princeton’s financial aid program.

Susan Walsh, the Assistant Vice President for Annual Giving at Princeton, said last year’s campaign “exceeded expectations” and raised the third-highest total in Princeton history.

Donation data released by the Annual Giving Office revealed each class’s participation goal and dollar goals from this fiscal year.

For each class year, the Annual Giving Office sets a “class goal,” or a percent of alumni in that class that they hope will donate. The Office also sets an annual “donation goal,” which is a target amount for that class to donate in a given year. Donation goals for classes in major Reunions years are typically higher than other classes’ donation goals. 

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Walsh explained, “major Reunions classes [typically every fifth reunion] account for about 40 percent of each year’s dollar total, with the milestone 25th and 50th Reunions typically raising the highest dollar totals.” In 2022–2023, the Class of 1973 experienced their 50th Reunion and the Class of 1998 experienced their 25th Reunion; their donation goals were $7,300,000 and $9,800,000, respectively.

Donation goals for the two decades of classes that graduating from 1981–2000 constituted more than half of the total donation goals, while both the oldest and most recent graduating classes were expected to donate substantially less.

The actual amounts donated show that the classes that graduated from 1981–2000 made up the most of the fundraising total. The classes between 1991–2000 out-donated all other decades, nearly doubling the second biggest donors’ contribution (of the classes graduating between 1981–1990). The Class of 1998 surpassed all other individual class years in fundraising totals with more than $9.2 million raised.

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Deborah Yu ’98, who has served as a class agent for her class since 2008, believes that a large part of their success this year was because of “a large and enthusiastic team of classmates [determined] to help with [her] class’s 25th Annual Giving Campaign.” It was her job to “recruit and organize classmates from all over the country and world to help us with personal outreach to classmates to ask them to join us with a gift.” She corroborated that donations were especially encouraged during major reunion years.

When comparing the actual dollars raised to the University’s goals for the 2022–2023 fiscal year, only the classes graduating from 1961–1970 and 1991–2000 surpassed their dollar goal. All other classes did not meet their goals. Although the Classes of 1991–2000 donated $1,417,886 above the University goal, their surplus contribution only compensated for 30 percent of the large fundraising underperformance of $3,437,526 just by classes graduating between 1981 and 1990.

Looking at goals and donations by year, only eight individual classes passed their goals. Only three classes that graduated after 1960 had more than 60 percent of the class done. The Class of 1963 had the largest class participation, with 75.5 percent of its class participating. Younger alumni are less likely to donate, as no class since 2010 has had more than 50 percent participation. While younger classes tend to be larger, members also may be earlier on in their careers.

Nevertheless, University alumni and administrators pride themselves on some of the most successful donor campaigns among academic institutions, with Olofson noting that it remains “meaningful to Annual Giving donors and volunteers that Princeton has the No.1 participation rate among peer schools.”

When asked about her future plans for the Class of 1998, which had one of the highest participation rates of around 65 percent, Yu stated that she “hopes to maintain this high level of participation [by] keeping our classmates engaged with the University through class and regional activities.”

The University’s 2023–2024 Annual Giving Campaign is now well underway, with an alumni volunteer team leading the initiative to meet a new round of goals by June 30, 2024.

William Neumann is a contributing Data writer for the ‘Prince.’

Please send corrections to corrections[at]dailyprincetonian.com.

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