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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Annual fundraiser for the College kicks off aims for more donations

This past Thursday, April 5 marked the fourth annual Scarlet and Give Back Day. Scarlet and Give Back is a 24-hour giving day that encourages the Grinnell College community to give back to the College. While the day focuses on donations, the College says that it hopes to stress the importance of current and former Grinnell College students participating in philanthropy at Grinnell College, whether that be monetary donations or other ways of contributing to the school.

Scarlet and Give Back Day originally started as a donor challenge, but it has undergone a few changes in the past years.

“It has really morphed into this awesome celebration of the College in ways that people can give back and giving is just one way we look at philanthropy,” said Mae Parker, Director of Annual Giving. “We really focus this day about participation — it’s not about how much money you raise but having everyone in our community participate and feel encouraged about the College.”

“[Scarlet and Give Back Day] educates students about the unity within donors and how students themselves can be donors. Essentially, it reflects on the Grinnell experience and who supports the Grinnell experience and its donors,” said Mitch Wolff, Assistant Director of Student Programs.

Historically, Scarlet and Give Back Day has succeeded in raising money quickly. Past total donations have ranged from over $700,000 to over $1,000,000. Often, a specific donor or donors will raise “matching challenges,” in which they agree to match the amount raised by the Grinnell College community. Typically, the amount raised on Scarlet and Give Back Days falls between $200,000 and $300,000, which donors then match.

Contributions support funds and programs such as the Pioneer Fund, financial aid, the Center for Careers, Life, and Service, Global Grinnell, the Humanities and Social Sciences Center and others.

According to Parker, Scarlet and Give Back Day focuses on participation and not dollar amounts. Parker feels that this is important as it fosters a community of giving that everyone in the Grinnell College community, especially students, can take part in.

“We want students to know their gifts all matter,” Parker said.

Donations make up an important part of the College’s operating budget. In the last five to six years, the College has had a strong push to encourage more donations. Previously, five percent of the overall budget was from donations, but following efforts to facilitate higher levels of donations over the past few years, monetary donations have increased to fill 6.5 to 7 percent of the budget.

Donations from alumni are especially desirable, as their donation statistics are frequently used to determine if a College is eligible to receive grant money to fund projects.

Parker believes that the increase in overall donations is due to overall increased engagement from the alumni community with both the current students and campus environment.

“[Donors] come and they meet with students, sit in on courses, and meet faculty members who are able to talk about their programs. … So really it’s our whole community helping us.”

Alumni typically contribute larger total donations than parents of current students, as there is a greater number of alumni than parents. Parents typically donate between $400,000 and $600,000 annually, while alumni donate in the millions.

“Typically, alumni are our largest source [of donations], and parents are next,” Parker added.

In comparison to peer institutions, Grinnell College’s donations, both in dollars and participation, are average.

“When we talk about participation, looking at our Peer 16, we’re probably middle or higher middle of the pack. … In terms of total dollars, [Grinnell College is] middle or lower middle,” Parker said.

While Grinnell College is slightly below average in terms of total dollars donated, factors such as enrollment may account for this discrepancy. The enrollment at Grinnell College is lower than many peer institutions and donations may vary accordingly.

Parker believes that significant improvements have been made over the past few years.

“I think we’re in a much better position for continued success. Alumni want to do more, and do better, and see Grinnell achieve,” she said.

Parker believes that improved efforts to tell the “Grinnell Story” and engage alumni with the current campus has increased donations.

“I think Grinnell is doing a better job of actually asking people [to donate] and giving them the opportunity to say yes or no, and being able to share our compelling stories, or invite them back to campus to live the story themselves,” she added.

While Grinnell College may have made considerable progress in terms of donations, the College hopes that donations will make up ten percent of the budget in the future.

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