Alumni Donations Shrink

The total monetary value of alumni donations to Institute’s largest alumni giving funds has decreased. Although about the same number of people are giving, they’re giving less money.

The Alumni Association will report actual figures over the coming months; the fiscal year ends on June 30.

In light of decreased donations, the Alumni Fund is working to direct incoming funds to priority areas, which include the David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research and the MIT Energy Initiative. “We are working as hard as possible to maximize gifts,” said Theresa Lee, interim director of the Alumni Association’s Alumni Fund.

When someone gives MIT money, the first $100,000 of their gift is credited to the Alumni Fund; so actual donations from alumni to MIT exceed the money reported by the Alumni Fund.

High-yield donors seem to be giving less. The William Barton Rogers Society Fund, which consists of donations to the Alumni Fund from those who contributed more than $1,000 in the current fiscal year (current students and alumni less than 9 years from graduation have a lower qualifying amount), will likely not raise as much money as in previous years.

As of April 7, the Society’s fund had collected $27 million from 3,219 donors for the 2009 fiscal year, which ends on June 30. Last fiscal year, $44 million was collected from 4,777 donors, according to the MIT Alumni Association website.

In at least one area, gifts are actually up. The Sloan School of Management’s Annual Fund has already received more this fiscal year than it did last year.

So far, 2 percent fewer donors have contributed to the Sloan Fund compared with last year. But the fund has collected about $300,000 more — $1.5 million from 32 gifts, a large increase from the $1.2 million that was donated during the previous entire fiscal year, according to Loren Van Allen, director of the Sloan’s Annual Fund.

“We are in pretty good shape compared to our peer schools,” Van Allen said. “We are up in dollars compared to last year. We have gotten some big gifts over the $50,000 level.”

Alumni gifts help finance general institute spending, but they can also directly affect current students through scholarships, graduate fellowships, and student life funds.

Sloan School leaders might use unrestricted gifts to the Sloan Annual Fund for any need, for instance to finance new buildings or scholarships, said Van Allen.

Alumni donors like to know that their money will make a difference. “I appreciate how MIT lets me choose where my dollars are going, such as to UROP and the endowment,” said Anna B. Folinsky ’02, who donated to MIT’s Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program this year. “I’m a graduate student, but giving a small amount to something specific like UROP can have a big effect.”

“Thankfully [the economic crisis] hasn’t been affecting me terribly,” said Dr. Edward De Vos ’70. “MIT is an important part of my background and I’d like to give back. I’ve donated every year for the last 25 years. This year is pretty much the same.”