From the light illuminating each classroom down to the funny egg-shape chairs scattered about newly-renovated Stockwell library, Albion College has been powered, in innumerable ways, by the generosity of its donors. As a nonprofit organization, Albion sustains and continues to refine its state-of-the-art institution by 80 percent funding through tuition and the remainder by benefaction.
The Annual Giving Office at Albion College reaches out to alumni, parents and friends for private support to offset the costs that exceed what can be funded by tuition. The office manages unrestricted giving accounts like the Albion College Fund as well as the Briton Scholarship Fund, which benefits as much as 97 percent of the student body.
The 80:20 ratio that powers the institution was what the Annual Giving Office at Albion College attempted to conceptualize in earlier years through “Tuition Free Day,” where students received free pizza in the KC while learning more about this important statistic that impacted them individually.
“It was hard to tell if they were interested in what we’re saying or the free pizza,” said Rebecca Kocher, director of parent giving and parent engagement in the Annual Giving Office.
This year, Rebecca Kocher, Gerica Lee and Claire Van Raaphorst, Rochester senior and the Annual Giving Office’s intern, worked together to propel this celebration of generosity and re-invent ways to reach their main objective in educating students, faculty and staff about the empowerment of giving to Albion College through their weeklong event, Philanthropy Week.
“I think we wanted to have a larger student presence. Not just focusing on that one day but to have an educational piece to move throughout the whole week,” said Gerica Lee, assistant director of Annual Giving. “One day is really easy to forget about and I think by having a day to recognize different areas and different parts of philanthropy and what it takes is really important.”
Through this year’s Philanthropy Week, which began Tuesday, March 18 through Friday, March 21, Kocher and Lee hoped to provide a week-long event that would educate students about where donations were allocated, celebrate the generosity received and inspire those who believe in Albion to give back.
“We want students at Albion to understand that a lot of what they see and the opportunities they have on campus were given to them through alumni that have come before them, currents parents, parents of alumni and then friends in the community,” Kocher said. “We’re hoping to help start that conversation in your mind. That was the goal—getting people to think about it.”
The weeklong event became the main project for Van Raaphorst, an English and communication studies major. With Kocher and Lee’s goals and general guidelines in mind, Van Raaphorst was handed the reigns to head up most of the planning, promoting and putting-on of Philanthropy Week by her own initiative.
“They had told me, ‘This is ultimately what you make it and we’re excited to see what you do,’” Van Raaphorst said. “I had a lot of independence.”
Delving into the project head first, Van Raaphorst was able to tune in her student perspective and design an event that appealed to her peers in ways beyond the delicious enticement of Hungry Howie’s pizza. She promoted the event on social media, created informative posters and even worked on several videos to compliment the event.
One of the videos included faculty members and their personal reasoning for, “Why I give to Albion College.” This video premiered Wednesday, a day that focused around the question, ‘Why?’ Students were also filmed in a two-part video to share their realistic dreams of giving back to the college and a segment of their not-so-realistic dreams (complete with bloopers), which played on a loop during Thursday’s events—centered around the theme, “One day I want to give…”
To increase student presence, Van Raaphorst offered incentive to the Greek community to attend the weeks’ events. The Annual Giving Office donated $50, of which the college matched, to award a total of $100 for the philanthropy of whichever Greek house had the highest attendance rates. Similar to previous years, students could also write a thank you note to an Albion donor and receive a cupcake in return. And paired with this year’s high attendance rates, by Thursday afternoon the Annual Giving Office saw an outstanding increase with over 170 thank you notes written by students to show their individual appreciation.
“These were thank you notes to parents who give—parents of students who have graduated and parents who still have students here,” Lee said. “You could write a thank you note to your friends’ mom, which I think makes a more personal connection to students.”
By the end of the week, donations to Albion College totaled over $2,000 in honor of Founders Day and Philanthropy week was viewed by Kocher, Lee and Van Raaphorst as widely successful.
“I wouldn’t be here without my scholarship,” Van Raaphorst said. “I think it’s important for students to realize how much their lives have been touched by gifts so that in the future, if they’re able to give even a little bit, some kid who really wants to go to Albion and really wants to play a sport or join a Greek house or get involved, can do so.”
Photo by Alexa Hyman
Notice of conflict of interest: Claire Van Raaphorst, Pleiad Business Manager, has been interviewed in this article as she is also the Annual Giving Office’s intern who helped organize and direct Philanthropy Week.