The number of alumni donors has decreased since the University of Richmond eliminated the men’s varsity soccer and track programs, said Tom Gutenberger, vice president for advancement.
About 914, or 10 percent of, donors who gave in 2011 did not donate in 2012, Gutenberger said.
“We knew we would have a hit from soccer and track,” Gutenberger said. “It’s an emotional decision. If you played that sport or were part of that department, you’re going to be upset. It’s understandable.”
But not all of the donor losses were solely due to the soccer and track cuts. For only 176 of the 914 donor losses can it be confirmed that they participated in, or were involved with, the two athletic programs, Gutenberger said.
One reason for fewer donations over the years is that revenue-raising campaigns have finished and alumni have yet to make their multiyear financial commitments, Gutenberger said.
“With every school across the board, it’s cyclical,” Gutenberger said. “Every year, giving will go up and down.”
Despite the number of donors decreasing, the actual amount of donations increased by $7.7 million, or 45 percent, from 2011, Gutenberger said. In total, the university raised about $25 million in 2012.
The increase in funds was due to the university’s latest capital campaign, Gutenberger said. “The Campaign for Richmond: Fulfilling the Promise” began in February 2013. $137 million has been raised so far, with the goal of reaching $150 million by the campaign’s conclusion in December 2014.
The funds from the campaign have gone toward various locations on campus, such as the Carole Weinstein International and Westhampton centers and Queally Hall, Gutenberger said. More than $17 million has been dedicated to scholarships.
With 15 months left, the remaining objectives of the campaign are to continue to raise money for the fellowship program, which provides students with stipends to complete summer research and internships, as well as raise funds for the Center for Admissions and Career Services, Gutenberger said.
The biggest difference Gutenberger said he had seen in gift giving over the years at Richmond, as well as at other schools, was that donors had begun to restrict their gifts more.
“People used to write a check for $25,000 or more and say, ‘Just use it where you see fit.’ Now, you see people writing checks for $25 and being very specific about how they want it to be used,” he said.
Senior Haley Jones worked at the Phonathon for two years and said athletic donations had been one of the more successful areas of gift giving during her time as a caller.
“When you call alumni and ask generally, ‘Hey, do you want to donate?’ they are not as likely to say yes. It’s when you mention that you have written down that they go to athletic events that they are more inclined to give. People identify with sports,” she said.
The advancement office also solicits donations through direct mail and peer-to-peer communication, which Gutenberger said was the most effective way of collecting donations. An example is the Senior Class Gift campaign, which is chaired by multiple students in the senior class. Gutenberger said he thought the program set seniors on a track to continue to donate after they have graduated.
Despite the decrease in donors last year, the university has increased participants by 2,400 people over the last decade and by about 800 in the last five years, Gutenberger said.
But the soccer and track cuts have still taken a toll. “We expected to be down in donors, which we were,” Gutenberger said.
“You hope people will come back and be supportive of the school and that they’ll get involved in other ways,” he said. “This is where they graduated. You don’t want to lose them.”
Contact reporter Renee Ruggeri at firstname.lastname@example.org