Bates achieves record 55 percent alumni giving participation in 2012

Not a bad way to start a presidency: As Clayton Spencer began Day 1 of her Bates presidency Monday morning, the Advancement Office had big news to report.

More than 50 percent of alumni made gifts as of the June 30 Bates Fund deadline, meeting the $500,000 Bates Fund Challenge.

Presented last winter by a group of anonymous alumni leaders, the Challenge was something of a friendly wager: If 50 percent of alumni made gifts by June 30, then the challengers would kick in $500,000 to Bates.

Meeting the Bates Challenge, Spencer said Monday morning, confirms her belief in the “distinctive identity and energy” of Bates people.

“These results speak volumes for the loyalty and engagement of the Bates community — and for the extraordinary efforts of our alumni volunteers and advancement staff.”

All last week, Bates Fund gifts kept rolling in — and as of midnight on June 30, 53 percent of alumni had made gifts and symbolically declared they’re “in” too.

“Gifts were coming in from around the world: Ghana, Australia, Nepal, the U.K., and the Netherlands are just a few recent ones,” said Sue Michel, the Advancement staffer who processes all gifts to Bates.

“We were also hearing from alums who gave earlier in the year and just checking to make sure they’re in the Challenge. And there are others giving a second time to help push the dollars up.”

By Tuesday morning, with gifts postmarked June 30 still coming in, participation stands at 55 percent. Complete results will be announced in the coming weeks as part of the college’s fiscal year-ending reports.

To reach 50 percent, the Bates Fund needed 1,056 more donors than last year, when participation was 45.2 percent.

Anyone in annual giving will tell you that increasing participation by even a couple percentage points in one year is a challenge. Gaining nearly 10 percent in one year is a feat.

In May, the drive to 50 percent got a great boost from the college’s youngest graduates, the Class of 2012. A record 87 percent of this year’s 463 seniors participated in the Senior Class Gift, pushing overall alumni participation up by a full percentage point.

Indeed, enthusiasm for the Challenge caught hold on campus, too.

Director of the Bates Fund Christina Traister ’94 recalls conversations with faculty and staff who would ask, “I see that we’re at 40 percent. How many more donors until we get to 41 percent?”

But Traister emphasizes that it would not have been possible without an enormous team effort.

Approximately 475 volunteers went to work calling friends and classmates, encouraging them to give “any gift, any size.”

While the success of this year’s campaign will be hard to beat, it has shown Bates what is possible.

“In the end, this challenge demonstrates what the Bates community is capable of achieving when put to the test,” Traister says.

“It is a tangible way to celebrate the recent forward momentum at Bates and show our new president how committed alumni are to keeping Bates strong and relevant in the coming years.”