The Campus sits down with City College Fund’s annual fund manager to discuss philanthropy during the holiday season by Ashley Kalstek
“All the learning and educational enrichment opportunities that go beyond CCNY’s classroom education…study abroad, engineering teams presenting at conferences, the Zahn Center, some sports, and scholarships, (even the piano in the NAC Rotunda), come from donations.”
These are the words of Ilene Miller, the annual fund manager at The City College Fund (CCF), who explains that most students don’t know that tuition and government funding cover less than two thirds of the College’s annual budget. Where does the remainder come from: The City College Fund, a non-profit organization established in 1946 for the sole purpose of supporting students, especially those who may not otherwise be able to afford college.
More than ever, The City College Fund faces challenges with current students and alumni giving back. Many donors do not give until they are 30, 40, even 50 years graduated from the University. Part of the challenge of alumni giving is that as a commuter school, City College faces problems in creating strong school spirit and a feeling of belonging among students, which impacts student giving after they graduate.
Now, the City College Fund is bridging that disconnect with students before they graduate through a campaign to get students thinking about the power they actually have to make CCNY better. The campaign, City Moments, created by Team Ethix, MCA seniors, on behalf of The City College Fund, celebrates the connection between CCNY and students a by honoring their favorite CCNY experiences and memories. By fostering a bond between alma mater and students, they will be more likely to give back to The City College Fund as alumni. This connection remains vital to help CCNY continue as a successful institution for low-income and diverse strivers.
The campaign officially kicks off on December 1st during the The My City Moment Experience which will challenge students to share their personal moments that made their time at CCNY worthwhile and placing a value on it with a pledge. The event will take place from 12PM to 2PM in the NAC Rotunda and feature a selfie station, giveaways, and food.
“Raising as much money as possible is always our goal but we also need to be concerned with the number of alumni who give. Institutions such as US News World News and Report us alumni participation as one of the criteria when consider a college’s ranking,” says Miller. “Currently we have a 20% participation rate which is the 2nd highest among regional universities. However, that number is declining.
Miller points to a decrease in participation already happening. CCF faces the largest challenges with its GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) alumni. “From graduation, we want to see alumni participating in giving,” she explains. “If we don’t start it right then, we are losing that connection.”
Giving at any level to CCNY makes a difference, even as little as $10. Automatic monthly giving on a credit card is an easy way for alumni to support the City College Fund. “Many people think if they cannot give a big gift, what good is it?” Miller states. “Last year, our Annual Fund raised $1.7 million which was comprised of donations averaging between $25-$100. Collectively, those small gifts add up.
She recalls the interaction she had with a student who told her she was ‘too broke to give. Says Miller: “The student came over to me and said she couldn’t afford to give…I handed her five dollars and said ‘Go buy yourself a cup of coffee and you can donate the change.’ I wanted her to see how important giving is to me, at any level.”