Counting Gifts from Alumni

Posted on 12/31/2016 - by Dan Allenby

Reporting alumni giving data to the Council for Aid to Education and U.S. News & World Report is, for the most part, a straightforward process. However, questions do arise about what should or should not be included in the reported data.

The Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) offers the following guidelines for counting gifts from alumni. These guidelines were developed by the CASE Commission on Alumni Relations in consultation with the CASE Commission on Philanthropy. For other purposes, transparency, consistency and accountability in reporting are encouraged and in the best interests of an institution and its various constituents.

Q: Should graduating seniors be included in alumni giving data?

A: Graduating seniors present an interesting dilemma. Often seniors make a gift in the latter part of their senior year but by the time the data is reported, they are alumni. Therefore, counting philanthropic gifts from seniors is acceptable as long as all seniors are counted among alumni of record. In other words, if gifts from graduating seniors are included in alumni giving data, then the complete cohort—all graduating seniors—must be included in the total alumni census. It is not acceptable to include seniors who donate but to exclude seniors who do not donate when calculating overall alumni giving. To report fair and accurate data, any donors reported in the numerator must have their entire cohort in the denominator.

Q: Is it appropriate to ask alumni for a minuscule amount of money ($1, for example) just to boost the percentage of alumni giving?

A: No. Our mission to build support for our institutions is not properly served by attempting to manipulate reporting data. Energies are best spent on sound practices to increase institutional support from alumni. Whether initiated by advancement staff or volunteers, it does not build greater support for the institution to ask alumni for “an extra dollar” to boost the class participation percentage. On the other hand, asking seniors in the Class of 2008 to give $20.08 as a means to capture their interest and encourage a habit of giving would be acceptable.

Q: Is it acceptable to count other income from alumni (such as magazine subscriptions, reunion fees, membership dues) toward alumni giving?

A: No. A good rule of thumb is to consider the donor’s intention in giving this money. If the donor intended to make a philanthropic gift to the institution, then it is a gift and should be reported. If the donor wrote a check to receive something in return—a magazine, admission to an event or membership in an organization—then the amount should not be considered in alumni giving totals, even if the donor receives a receipt from the institution.

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