Why All Gifts to ASOR Matter
by Rob Oden
President Emeritus of Carleton College
Chair of ASOR’s Development Committee
In a fundraising campaign with an ambitious six- or seven-figure number, do small gifts matter? Why should we all stretch to give what we can even if a stretch gift for some of us is $25, $50, or $100? Do $25 or $50 gifts to ASOR's Annual Fund matter?
There are two affirmative answers, the second less obvious. The first answer is that just as Benjamin Franklin argued for small savings on the grounds that compounding matters, small gifts do not compound of themselves but they combine with other gifts to yield compound result. If hundreds of us who care about ASOR and its mission each give small gifts, the total of those gifts will be significant and will play a significant role in our reaching our Foundational Campaign’s goal. Just note that last year almost a hundred “small” gifts meant that ASOR could award nine additional scholarships for students to go on digs. These gifts were certainly significant to those nine individuals!
Behind the second and perhaps less apparent reason why all gifts, whatever their size, matter lies a story. The story relates what actually happened, unscripted, unedited. Less than a decade ago, when I served still as the president of a fine liberal arts college, I found myself meeting, as was so often the case, with a potential major donor. After the usual introductory pleasantries, I began what I had planned to be an extensive and what I hoped would be a persuasive case for why the college needed this donor to give us a leadership gift. He had a chance, I argued, to transform need-based financial aid, to endow our need-based aid so generously that we could dramatically reduce, perhaps even eliminate, the necessity of our least wealthy students to take out student loans. From here, I moved to other endowment gift suggestions, including the gift of several endowed chairs at $3 million each or a very substantial endowment to enhance faculty salaries across the board.
Twenty minutes into my carefully rehearsed presentation, the donor politely lifted his hand—a gesture that I sensed meant he wished me to cease speaking. I stopped talking. “All that you have said,” the potential donor began, “is to the point and none of this is without merit. We do need to ensure that a first-rate liberal arts education is accessible to all talented students, whatever their families’ income level, and we do need properly to honor our faculty. But thoughts such as these are not going to move me to make a leadership gift. What I want to know and what might well motivate me is an answer to this question: ‘What percentage of our graduates give to the Annual Fund every year? There is no more accurate or reliable way to gauge the value our graduates place upon their education than their willingness to contribute each year—and I don’t care how large their annual gifts are.’”
Happily, I was able to answer this shrewd question with a compelling answer: the graduates of the college give to the Annual Fund in record-setting fashion. Later, I followed up my answer with documentary evidence, citing the percentage of alumni who had given to the Annual Fund in each of the past five years. The evidence led the potential donor to give a truly extraordinary gift, the second largest gift in a campaign whose goal was many hundreds of thousands of dollars.
So, and again, do all gifts matter? We have our answer: unprompted, first-hand evidence of the crucial importance of gifts to a fund-raising campaign. Experts often proclaim that the success of campaigns comes from a half a dozen key, leadership gifts. That assessment may not be incorrect. Yet, there is more to the story. The key to any campaign’s success is in fact the willingness of many who believe in an organization to give, because it is their willingness to give, at whatever level, that produces the leadership gifts that allow the campaign to succeed.
Please, and on behalf of all who value ASOR, give to ASOR's Annual Fund or to any part of ASOR’s Foundational Campaign.
You may make a contribution by clicking here, or you may mail your contribution to ASOR, 656 Beacon Street, 5th Floor, Boston, MA 02215.