By: Courtney Stewart ’14
When you think about philanthropy and donating to a cause, what comes to mind for you? Defeating cancer? Helping that puppy on the other side of the country get surgery? Donating clothes and toys during the holidays? While these are all worthy and incredible causes, giving back to Ursinus should also be high on that priority list.
And now you’re probably rolling your eyes because now you definitely know that this article is about alumni giving. Trust me—I get it. UC has a high price tag. And like me, you’re probably currently experiencing just how high that tag is in terms of your student loans. But the cost of tuition does not truly cover the cost of an education at UC.
Take a minute and think about all the reasons why you attended Ursinus and just how much it has impacted your life. Whether you’re a recent graduate, or left Ursinus a decade ago, I am sure you can muster up a few positive answers. For me, it was the small class sizes and the ability to be a student-athlete in an environment where the student came first. I had no idea what I wanted to study or what I wanted to do but I knew that a liberal arts college would equip me with the tools I would need to succeed in any future role.
But when it came to cost, Ursinus was not exactly what I was looking for. At least not until I received a letter stating that I was offered a generous scholarship. (Fun fact: Over 99% of students at UC receive some type of financial assistance.) And it is because of donors of all levels that so many students are able to even dream of attending a school like Ursinus. UC offered me the best financial aid package out of the four schools that I applied to, thus making my decision that much easier. But it is because of that scholarship, and those donors, that I was able to not only simply attend Ursinus, but also participate in so many things that make UC what it is.
Most importantly, it comes down to supporting areas of the college such as the annual fund. This fund is what helps keep UC going. It ensures that students receive financial support, that buildings receive proper maintenance, it keeps the lights on, it fuels student academic innovation and much more. If you’re curious, here is the breakdown of where the dollars go for the annual fund:
- Scholarships and financial aid (41.8%)
- Student life (14.2%)
- Academics (23.3%)
- Administrative support and operations (12.6%)
- Campus maintenance (8.1%)
Giving to the annual fund is the best way to benefit the college because this fund supports areas of greatest need on campus. Support for the fund comes from a number of constituents such as foundations, government agencies and friends of the college but, most importantly, 41% of donors are alumni and students. Compared to the overall number of donors, this might seem like a big number, but it is not.
But we can change this. Creating a positive culture of alumni giving is difficult. Many schools struggle with it. On average, only a small fraction of Ursinus alumni give back. For young alums, the number is even smaller. And yes, we know that it can be annoying and frustrating that Ursinus calls you and asks for money. You have loans and expenses and probably treat your dog more like a child, but the most important thing to remember is that the gifts we make as young alumni are about participation—not necessarily the dollar amount. You may not think that a gift of $15 is important, but it is, and it helps the college improve its rankings on a national scale.
So, sacrifice that daily Starbucks for a week, pack your lunch, cook at home or decrease that weekly bar tab by a few drinks. Donate to athletics or Greek Life or the Bear2Bear Student Emergency Fund—whatever it is or whatever the amount, it really will make a difference.
Everyone knows someone who has been affected by philanthropy in some shape or form on UC’s campus. You can also impact current students by making a gift on #Giving2UCDay (Tuesday, December 3) or by making a recurring gift. And for those of you who already give, thank you. Encourage your friends to give. Even if it is just one or two alums, it can create a domino effect and help educate more people on philanthropy at Ursinus.