The Office of Planning and Development saw a decrease in the value of gifts to Bowdoin this year, as many of the remaining pledges from the College's 2009 capital campaign were paid off last year.
In fiscal year (FY) 2011, the College took in gifts worth $35.9 million, a 25 percent decrease from FY 2010 in which it received gifts totaling just over $48 million.
In recent years, Bowdoin has seen totals ranging from around $34.5 million in FY 2006 to a record $59.8 million in FY 2009 at the conclusion of The Bowdoin Campaign.
"A lot of the total depends on whether or not we are in campaign mode," said Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Randy Shaw.
Shaw explained that as more and more pledges are paid off in the wake of The Bowdoin Campaign, total giving is inevitably going to decline. In fact, a decrease in pledge payments from the campaign was largely responsible for the drop, as those payments fell from around $28 million in FY 2010 to $13 million in FY 2011.
With big donors—who contribute the lion's share of each year's total—paying off the last of their pledges, the College may not see its haul go much higher until the start of the next campaign or until elite donors feel there is less economic uncertainty.
"There are a lot of factors that go into whether or not our elite donors are at a point where they are ready to make a commitment," said Shaw.
Another challenge Bowdoin faces, particularly since the recession of 2008, is maintaining annual giving to the College.
Annual giving constitutes a subset of all gifts, and is comprised of donations from alumni, parents, and friends of the College. These funds can be used for current expenditures, as gifts aren't locked in assets.
In the past few years, annual giving has remained at roughly the same level.
"As our operating budget increases from year to year, that's a problem," said Shaw, referencing how gifts are needed to cover expenses because they are immediately spendable.
He added that the most important accomplishment in the last fiscal year was that the College "significantly increased annual giving and...got it back on track" to optimum levels of growth.
During this past FY, annual giving donations grew by 6 percent, exceeding the College's goal by $350,000—an accomplishment he described as "hugely successful."
Annual giving totaled $9,845,168, in comparison to last year's $9,278,627.
The College raised these funds by convincing a greater percentage of alumni to donate.
"We were able to move our participation percentage up by 2.3 points, which was about 520 donors," said Shaw. This boost, when combined with a "sharper focus on giving at leadership levels," accounted for much of the increase.
The annual giving participation rate increase from 54 percent in FY 2010 to 56.3 percent in FY 2011.
"The inherent challenge in the participation is that every year we have more alumni than we had the year before," meaning, that for involvement levels to increase, "you've got to successfully solicit more people every year," said Shaw.
"We're being more creative about being able to reach people," he added, noting that his office is incorporating social networking into the process of contacting alumni. Using Facebook and LinkedIn along with traditional methods like telephone calls, helps "keep Bowdoin relevant in people's lives."
As the College continues to reach out to alumni, it is also looking to replace former Vice President for Planning and Development Bill Torrey, who stepped down from the post on June 30. A search committee, comprised of trustees, faculty, and staff, hopes to find his successor by early next year.