Here's the latest:
Dear fellow alumni,
It was about this time of year that each one of us carried that last armload of books back to the Library before graduating. What did you feel as you pushed them across the desk or slid them into the book drop—relief, joy, sadness, gratitude? Well, did you know that when you give to the Alumni Fund, you can choose to give directly to the Library through the "Library Resources" bucket? The Library puts your dollars to work immediately to ensure that its resources stay up-to-date, its expert librarians can help every inquiring student, and its couches are comfortable.
No matter how you took advantage of the Library during your time at [INRU], we hope you will join us in giving back today by designating your Alumni Fund gift for Library Resources! Visit [website] today.
[Alumni Fund Officers]
Now, okay: I react especially negatively to this approach because I work in higher education and my own institution's library doesn't have half the resources (whether in the form of books, databases, or comfy couches) of my alma mater. But I don't think that's the whole of it; I have a hard time imagining this appeal being effective with anyone I know, even those outside of higher ed.--plenty of whom are sentimental about their college days and prone to nostalgic reveries about Saturdays spent in those grand reading rooms or prowling the stacks.
Because however callow and heedless we may have been in our youth, and however much we may have taken INRU's resources for granted, we've all been out in the world since then. We probably all have connections to or emotional investments in at least a dozen organizations with relatively shallow pockets: our local schools, arts organizations, places of worship, homeless shelters, and so on. If I'm nostalgic about my experiences in INRU's libraries? I'm going to give to a literacy organization, or a local library, or the library at my kid's school--not to an institution with a $20 billion endowment, whose libraries are nicer than those at 99% of the world's universities.
Maybe I just don't know anyone capable of giving truly big bucks--the donors the university really wants to cultivate--and maybe such people respond differently to such appeals. But as someone intensely fond of her alma mater and capable of donating annually in the low three figures (but who does not), what I want from a fundraising appeal is, first of all, a direct acknowledgement of the university's fabulous wealth. I want an acknowledgement that there are other charities out there that I might (and do) consider worthier.
That's the most important thing, actually: the acknowledgment that decades of need-blind admissions (and extremely generous financial aid) mean a lot of graduates neither come from money nor go on to it, and that even more graduates have an uncomfortable and ambivalent relationship to INRU's wealth. Then I'd like a pitch that explains why--despite those facts--I should still give: because the recession has cut into the endowment, forced them to freeze faculty lines, imperiled the university's ability to fully fund students with family incomes below $65,000. Whatever.
Maybe they can't do that second part, because it's not true. Fine. But imagining your alumni as living in a sentimental bubble, in love with nothing so much as their alma mater and untouched by any financial pressures of their own--well, that's gross. If those people exist, I don't even want to know them, much less be taken for one.
Wanna to know why I don't give even the minimal sum that covers the cost of my alumni magazine subscription? That's why. Boola boola.