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Annual Giving Report shows decline in alumni donations

November 22, 2019

Source: The Office of Development and Alumni Relations

The College received $34.9 million in donations during the 2018-2019 year, a $700,000 decrease from the $35.6 million received in 2017-2018, according to the Annual Giving Report. The report, prepared by the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, also shows alumni and friends, faculty and staff gave less this year than last.

According to Scott Meiklejohn, senior vice president for development and alumni relations, this drop is not a source of significant concern for the College.

“In the context of total annual support that has been between $32 and $42 million per year over a number of years, being up or down by $700,000 isn’t something we think about,” he wrote in an email to the Orient.

However, Meiklejohn explained that giving can vary based on donors’ personal circumstances or when the College receives large donations for particular purposes, such as financial aid, academic programs, internships or construction.

“In any given year, we have contributors who didn’t give the year before, and there are alumni who drop off the donor roles and reappear in another year,” he wrote. “They forget, they think they gave or they have a particular reason for giving or not. With about 20,000 living alumni there are lots of individual stories.”

Meiklejohn did not specify a particular reason for the decline, such as a pledge distributed by Bowdoin Labor Alliance, which asked alumni to withhold donations to the College until housekeeper wages were raised.

Compared to college graduates nationwide, Bowdoin alumni rank among the top donors to their alma mater. In 2018, Forbes ranked Bowdoin 12 out of 200 on its “Grateful Graduates Index,” which is determined by the median of total private donations per enrolled student in the last seven years and the percentage of alumni who donate any amount to the institution each year.

Alumni gave $13,296,888 in 2018-2019, down from $15,598,308 the previous year. Friends, faculty and staff gave $1,263,306, down from $2,438,375 in 2017-2018. Parents, trustees, foundations and corporations all donated more.

The classes of 1957, 1960, 1964 and 1968 all had annual giving rates of at least 80, meaning 80 percent of living alumni from those class years donated to the College. The class of 1969 gave the most in annual gifts—$638,777—and annual capital and planned gifts—$4,504,647.

All four annual funds—the alumni fund, the parents fund, the Polar Bear Athletic Fund and the friends fund—showed slightly greater returns in 2018-2019 than in 2017-2018.

“The annual giving programs continue to grow,” Meiklejohn wrote. “Most donors to Bowdoin every year participate by giving to one of those funds.”

The report also highlighted the contributions of the 1794 Society, which provides 83 percent of annual giving totals. Members of the society are classified by the amount of their donation; for example, those who donate $100,000 or more are designated “President’s Associates,” and those who donate $50,000-$100,000 are “Joseph McKeen Associates.” The minimum donation to receive one of these designations is $2,000—those who give this amount are “Nathaniel Hawthorne Associates.”

In 2018-2019, the 1,227 members of the 1794 Society gave $7,802,442, while the remaining 8,279 donors together gave $1,827,671.

“I believe many donors give because they understand what the annual giving programs mean to the College and because, in the case of alumni, they recognize that alumni gifts made their experience better when they were students,” Meiklejohn wrote. “Part of a lifelong relationship with the College involves participating in some way.”

Meiklejohn also underscored the degree to which the College relies upon donations.

“Bowdoin would be a very different place without the generous gifts of alumni, parents and other donors to the College,” he wrote. “We hope the report of giving conveys to donors the impact of their contributions.”

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