I used to fear the Girl Scouts during cookie season either knocking on my door or approaching me outside of the local supermarket targeting my goodwill to buy some of those delicious thin mint cookies. I used to dread the once a month knock on a door from a local neighborhood kid looking for me to buy some wrapping paper I didn’t need or some cookie dough I definitely did not want sitting in my freezer giving me the wrong temptation late at night. I used to dread getting phone calls at work from some local cause hitting my company up for $500 here or a $1,000 there. Now, I only dread my alma mater as their level of aggressiveness with fundraising efforts has reached historic proportion.
I went to Boston College, and let’s face it at $55,000 or more this year it’s certainly not the cheapest school on the block. I did get a great education and had a fantastic life living on and off campus in the Chestnut Hill area. I’m also inclined to give a donation here and there to support the school. I don’t know about your alma mater, but mine has literally gone out of control with the amount of times they ask me for money.
As of 2011, here are some sobering statistics. Harvard has roughly a 32 billion dollar endowment. Yale has a 19.4 billion dollar endowment. Princeton is over 17 billion dollars in their endowment. In fact, there are over 75 colleges and universities today that have over a 1 billion dollar endowment (source: www.wikipedia.org). The ballooning endowments are all happening at a time in our history where poverty is reaching all time highs, unemployment is close to 9%, and college costs seem to be one of the rare sectors where prices seem to defy gravity in this tough economy. According to Wikipedia, Boston College has close to a 1.5 billion dollar endowment.
A few months ago, I realized just how out of control Boston College is with its fundraising efforts. I counted 27 consecutive days in a row where they called my house looking for donations until eventually I told the student dialer to take me off of the list. Yet, a week later I got another solicitation in the mail. A week later . . . another donation mailer request from Boston College. Then, I got a free calendar following by a mailer asking for donations to see if I enjoyed the calendar. At my recent 20 year reunion drive, I got paid a visit from a nice young woman asking me for a small donation of $25,000 to complete the gifting pyramid goal they had for the class of 1991. Nothing huge, just a mere $25,000. The really funny thing is that every time I donate to the school, it seems like more people call asking me for even more donations.
I never thought I would say this, but I’m really sick and tired of my college calling me. Part of the fun of giving and being charitable is to be able to give from your heart. Or, when the kids knock on your door you get that satisfaction of helping a youngster in the neighborhood knowing that your kids are going to need some of that reciprocal help from your neighbors at some other time. We’ve all bought candy bars, decals, or something we really didn’t need to help out kids in the community.
Our colleges should know better. At a time when people are down and out hurting in this economy, they should be spending $100 million of these endowments to help many more kids get an education or cutting the cost of education while instead they are doing exactly the opposite. I don’t know about you, but just put me on the do not call list. Gifts should mean something, and I’m not an ATM machine and neither are you. How’s that for gifting 101!
Ted Jenkin, CFP®, AAMS®, AWMA®, CRPC®, CMFC®, CRPS®
Co-CEO and Founder of oXYGen Financial, Inc
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