Alumni increases giving, best in five years

Anna Lawson

As of December, WKU is receiving the majority of its donations or gifts from alumni. The $4.7 million raised from former students made up around 45 percent of total gifts from July to December of 2014. 

John Paul Blair, associate vice president of Advancement, said that this year is shaping up very well, and the first six months of this fiscal year, which is from July until June, is the highest level they have achieved in five years. 

“It is over $10 million at this point,” he said. “It is standard for alumni to be the largest support group for universities. They are the ones who have the most motivation to invest back because of the amount of success it has provided them.”

Blair said they have also seen $8 million in new pledges, which is the best start in seven years. They also have 73 new pledges, which is the highest over the last ten years. 

Blair said he’s very grateful for the alumni and friends who are taking part in the growth of WKU.

“I always hope the university continues to be grateful to the alumni and friends who are investing in the future of our students by making gifts to WKU,” he said. “I express appreciation for that because they are the real heroes, those who give sacrificially to support.”

Blair said they have over 100,000 alumni that maintain close communication with. Blair deals specifically with “major gifts”, gifts higher than $10,000.

Anything smaller is considered an annual gift. He said this fiscal year they have $6.5 million in major gifts which is the highest in five years. There is also a $4.7 million in endowment gifts, which is a 137 percent increase compared to the first six months of last year. 

For the first time in WKU history, endowment has surpassed the $140 mark, according to Blair. 

“Major gifts take a lot more time and are more sacrificial,” he said. “It isn’t typically something an alumni or friend of the university can sustain over a long period of time.”

Adam Rider, the director of Leadership and Annual Giving, said their success during this fiscal year is due to their work to get alumni involved. He said, however, that it is sometimes a challenge to keep the alumni involved and continue giving. 

“We have changed our engagement strategy,” he said. “It is hard to get the second and third gifts, it costs a lot more to acquire them than to keep them engaged.”

Currently the office hosts events, sends direct mail, makes calls and uses social media to reach out to the community. 

“On the major gift side we primarily meet face to face,” Blair said. “We also solicit electronically and through other means.”

Rick DuBose, executive director of the Alumni Association said they’ve been much more strategic in approaching potential donors. He said they try to get the alumni early on. 

“Our goal is to always increase engagement and increase membership,” he said. “We hope this will lead to greater giving to the university.”

Rider said one thing that helps with this is that when people come to WKU’s campus they have an affinity for it.

“They love what we are doing, and they see the growth and want to be a part of it,” he said. 

He also said that while they have a lot of ways to keep people giving they are always looking for more ways to get people involved. 

“We have a lot of innovative ideas to keep people involved” he said. “But, these things take money so we hope that we can be creative and do more next year.”