The College raised $46,158,280 in total and had a 59 percent alumni participation rate in Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 (July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013), according to Senior Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Rick Ganong ’86.
Fundraising at the College is broken down into two components, annual giving and capital or planned giving. In FY 2013, $10,591,756 was raised for the annual fund and $35,566,523 was raised for capital projects. Annual giving contributes to the College’s annual budget and is comprised of multiple funds, including the Alumni Fund, the Friends Fund, the Parents Fund, and the Polar Bear Athletic Fund. Capital or planned gifts are used for financial aid, buildings, the endowment and long-term projects.
In FY 2012, $10,477,227 was raised for the annual fund and $19,706,360 was raised in capital/planned giving, which gave a combined total of $30,183,587. In FY 2011, $9,845,668 was raised for the annual fund and $26,090,320 was raised in capital or planned giving.
“[The annual fund] doesn’t move around that much, we try to grow that every year...and then capital gifts, that’s lumpy. You might take in 15 [million] one year and 35 [million] the next,” Ganong said.
For FY 2014, the annual fund goal has increased to $10,897,000. As of February 24, the College has already raised $5,839,453 in annual funds.
The annual fund accounts for roughly six percent of the College’s annual operating budget. In FY 2013, 9,654 of the 16,350 alumni in the solicitable alumni base donated to the Alumni Fund or the Polar Bear Athletic Fund, constituting a 59 percent alumni participation rate. The solicitable alumni base does not include all living Bowdoin alumni, as some alumni choose to be put on a “do not solicit” list.
According to Ganong, the alumni participation rate impacts the College’s bond rating, U.S. News and World Report ranking, reputation, brand and annual budget.
Bond rating agencies use annual giving and alumni participation as factors when determining the College’s ranking, which affects the interest rate at which the College can borrow money.
Ganong also spoke to the impact of alumni participation’s on rankings.
“Like it or not, a lot of people look at those ratings and those are important to us,” Ganong said.
In FY 2012, the alumni participation rate was 58 percent and in FY 2011 it was 56 percent. The goal for FY 2014 is a 60 percent alumni participation rate, or roughly 10,000 alumni donors, according to Director of Annual Giving Brannon Fisher.
“Because the graduating classes are so large now, what really moves the needle, believe it or not, will be this year’s graduating class,” Ganong said. “Unless you had a really, really bad time at Bowdoin, there’s no way that you can’t send ten dollars. That’s like a six-pack, or a really nice trip to Gelato Fiasco. So we’re really hoping our graduating seniors had a great four years, they’re going out into the world with very fond thoughts of Bowdoin, and they want to contribute to our alumni fund.”
The role of alumni
The Office of Development and Alumni Relations (DAR) has two components. Alumni Relations employees plan, set up and run all alumni and fundraising events, including reunions and events at Bowdoin Clubs around the country. Development consists of officers who solicit gifts from donors, and in total, about 55 people work in DAR.
“It’s really kind of a neat process to see occur,” Ganong said. “We’ll hold an event, we’ll solicit and we’ll thank. Those are the three engines that are running here.”
DAR also collaborates with other groups, including the Office of Communications and Public Affairs and the student phone-a-thon callers.
“We’d like to think that we don’t have to employ student callers. … We would love to be able to inspire our alumni base and parent base to wake up on July 1 and send a check to Bowdoin College—that doesn’t happen,” Ganong said.
Recently, the Office of Communications and Public Affairs has increasingly used social media to communicate with potential donors.
“That’s really part of this whole giving process, just cultivation and awareness, keeping people informed about Bowdoin,” Ganong said. “If you look at a duck, swimming on the water it looks really smooth, but underneath there’s the feet doing crazy things. It’s a little bit like Bowdoin DAR, it looks really smooth on the surface but there’s a lot going on underneath.”
Bowdoin’s most recent capital campaign, “The Bowdoin Campaign,” surpassed its $250 million goal between 2004 and 2009, by raising a total of $293 million, the largest capital campaign in the College’s history. The capital campaign before that raised $136 million from 1993 to 1998.
“If we want to continue to compete with [Williams and Amherst]...we need to keep our financials healthy,” Ganong said. “So I think a capital campaign is something that would certainly help to do that and we need to think about that and we are.”
Last fall, Amherst celebrated its successful $502 million “Lives of Consequence” capital campaign. Williams raised $500 million from 2003 to 2008 during its most recent capital campaign. In 2010, Colby completed Maine’s largest capital campaign ever, raising $376 million in five years.
“The quick answer is yes, we’re thinking about it, we’re talking about it. Do we have a timeframe and a goal? No,” Ganong said. “We’re going to be spending a lot of time in the next several months thinking about another capital campaign.”