Has anyone ever donated to their alma mater?

(53 Posts)
Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 16:15:46

Just that, really.

I see a lot of threads that complain of the lack of bursaries available at independent schools or even the high fees now charged by universities. Or people complain about the lack of facilities at state schools... all the while, never thinking about parting with their own money.

In the U.S., schools like Phillips Exeter Academy can make offers needs-blind due to their huge endowments that has been accumulated over (presumably) centuries. If the family of an accepted candidate has an income of less than $75k a year, then that child's education will be free. They offer aid for families all the way up to those with a family income of $200k a year.

Same thing goes for Harvard. Yes, outside of the U.S., we think it's an elitist uni where only the rich can go, but if you are good enough to get in, your family does not pay tuition unless they earn more than $150k a year. And even above that, your parents may pay only 10% of their annual salary, which makes it a much cheaper option than British universities.

Again, the above can be done partly due to endowment funds that are frequently 'stocked up' by alumnis. If we ever want the same system, I think all of us should donate to our alma mater now.

Goes off to alma mater's website to donate a small amount.

Yes - I give monthly to my Uni and have made a couple of larger donations for specific projects.

I went to a very ordinary Comp which has now been shut down so nothing to support at school level.

Sharpkat Thu 21-Feb-13 17:51:51

I donate to both my school and my Oxbridge college. Would like to put a little bit of help towards others. I never received a penny from either but these days education is so expensive that every little helps smile

Noren Thu 21-Feb-13 18:02:09

Maybe if I ever pay off my student loan...

I personally think it should be funded through taxes properly like it used to. Donations in my view are bad as you then get corruption and nepotism.

Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 20:53:43

Ok. Just set up quarterly donations for my uni. Am thinking of giving some to a particular project of my college, too.

Anyone else doing this? I do think it would be good if we started being a bit more philanthropic towards our alma maters - something we could definitely copy off the Americans.

I'm not donating to my own bloody employer!

malinois Thu 21-Feb-13 20:56:34

I donate to the universities I attended in the UK (not the one in the US - it's rich enough already!) The Alumni receptions can be fun, although they do tend to frisk you down for more money after plying you with booze.

Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 21:01:14


Why do you think is the U.S. much further ahead in the game than the U.K.? I wonder about that a lot. Is it cultural?

Matsikula Thu 21-Feb-13 21:12:16

Yes, to my university (despite it being phenomenally well-endowed) but not to my school (despite having got a big scholarship).

I donated for the reasons above, but give to my university because I think university is an experience that can and should be life-changing, but not to my school because my feelings about private education are the cause of occasional bouts of soul-searching when I can't sleep.

Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 21:32:42

Why the occasional bouts of soul-searching, Matsikula? I would have thought that having got a big scholarship set you out to go to uni and beyond?

SavoirFaire Thu 21-Feb-13 21:33:10

Americans are, to stereotype a little, more philanthropic than Brits. So yes, it is cultural. A very high proportion of students who studied at US universities give back to their uni, in comparison with the UK. I don't know the stats, but I believe at places like Princeton it's something like 50%, possibly more, whereas average in the UK is 2% or less. Perhaps because paying high fees (or receiving bursaries) makes you appreciate the costs associated and need for bursaries? I would always give to a uni over a private school. I think private school bursaries are well and good. However, I don't think that schools need ever more flashy resources (boat houses, 500 seater theatres etc etc), whereas money to universities can go towards critical medical research (or whatever other area of research you're personally interested in really) as well as scholarships and bursaries.

yummydad Thu 21-Feb-13 21:38:13

As far as I am aware an Alma Mater means a "wet nurse" or "suckling nurse" which is a pretty offensive connotation for an educational institution in this day and age. If you are a member of a College then certainly give if you got a lot out (although I always say for scholarships which are objective and fair not bursaries which are much more arbitrary, depend too much on honest declaration when we know there's loads of fraud or lifestyle choice and bursaries often go to the wrong people: particularly in the UK when it is the very poorest who already get the most from the state and can easily borrow to cover their uni education whereas the next tranche up really struggle and are more likely to be excluded).

SavoirFaire Thu 21-Feb-13 21:38:24

More than 62% of alumni give to Princeton

In the UK it is around 1%, although 10% at Oxbridge

SavoirFaire Thu 21-Feb-13 21:54:52

Here's an extract from a Guardian piece, which talks about the cultural difference between UK and US giving:

Giving in the UK stands at around 1% of GDP, roughly half the US level (though the comparison is skewed by the fact that nearly a third of US giving is to religious organisations). But in the US, philanthropy is institutionalised: wealthy Americans routinely give 3.5% of their investable assets to charity (against 0.5-0.8% for their British counterparts) and have a public "duty" to give.

Here, it has generally been a private affair: not done to blow your own trumpet. "It's cultural," says Beth Breeze of the centre for philanthropy, humanitarianism and social justice at the University of Kent. "The tax differences aren't enormous. Partly, it's because the US is better at asking. But in America, every Harvard graduate thinks: who's going to be the first in my year to have a building named after him? In New York, you haven't made it if you're not on the board of a major arts institution like the Met."


I give to my old college when I go back for dinner - the dinner is free, but I tend to make a donation which would generously pay for an equivalent dinner. Given they only have to pay the cost price of it, they are quids in. I definitely don't donate when they pay students to make phone calls structured with feeble attempts at small talk followed by a request for money.

I don't give to my old (independent) school as I would rather save for DD to be privately educated than pay for someone else's child to be privately educated and we are not rolling in money, it will be tight if we can afford it at all.

Copthallresident Thu 21-Feb-13 22:13:45

There is much more of a civil society in the states generally not just in relation to education, if you achieve financial success then it is expected you will get involved in some form of philanthropy or activities that will benefit wider society.

We do sponsor a prize in memory of a friend at our old uni. I am now at my third uni so I get quite a few calls trying to elicit contributions both financial and in terms of practical help to students but so far have only really got fully involved with activities at my first postgrad uni, and then because they arose ina social / networking context. Alway feel more generous after a good alumni reunion grin

Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 22:19:00


I do think there's another point - in the US, having gone to one of the more well-known unis carries a lot of prestige that translates into well-paid jobs. So, in the end, going to such a uni can REALLY change your life in terms of income.

While in the UK, going to Oxbridge may produce a similar effect (still not the same), it's definitely not true for all the RG unis... and you'll find that a lot of graduate jobs here do not get paid as well as in the US I can assure you that if DH was working in the US for the same company, doing the same job, he would easily get paid nearly twice the amount he gets paid here. This is simply because the UK does not necessarily value someone with a PhD as much as the US seems to do - and obviously, his company simply matches the going rate. Similarly, I may get paid a bit more for what I do, too, but the difference would not be nearly as much as in his case.

I personally think that in the US, you get A LOT MORE out of going to these unis that happen to have the big endowment funds than you would ever get out of ANY uni here in the UK. So obviously, you are going to be a lot more grateful, too...

HarrietSchulenberg Thu 21-Feb-13 22:25:15

My university rings me up once a year and asks me to tell them about my time ad a student with them. The first time they did it they got me monologuing for a good 15 mins before hitting me with the donation schtick. I felt awful telling them that my graduate career was not quite as glittering as I had hoped and that I couldn't afford to support another student with £20 per month. Then I got cross about it but they still ring me up each year and try it on.

I just tell the poor student who phones that the only reason the university has my phone number is because I work for them now. After that they seem to understand that the won't be getting any money from me. My UG university have no idea where I am, so they can't phone me. They send magazines to my mum's house instead and I tell her to bin them.

I agree there's a different culture, but I'm less convinced that copying the USA is the way to go.

Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 22:33:04

My point above - the 22:19:00 one... there's an advert saying:

PhD Process Engineer
Salary: £30,000 per annum
Location: North East

That's $46,000. I think in the US, they'd have to pay much more than that.

I donate a small amount to my college. I do it in spite of, rather than because of, them getting students to call me.

SconeRhymesWithGone Thu 21-Feb-13 22:45:35

I am American living in the US. I have also worked and volunteered in fundraising for nonprofits, including universities. I just want to point out that many people who give who are not wealthy (I am one of them) and anonymous donations (even large ones) are not uncommon, so not everyone is looking for recognition.

I give regularly to one of the two US universities I attended and to my Scottish university.

SconeRhymesWithGone Thu 21-Feb-13 22:49:06

And with apologies to those 3 universities, I realize there is an extra "who" in the above post.

Snazzynewyear Thu 21-Feb-13 22:51:59

Have done it in the past but not right now as a) income much lower than it used to be and b) alma mater does not have ethical investment policy.

Snazzynewyear Thu 21-Feb-13 22:52:44

If I won the lottery, though (unlikely as don't play, but...) one of the things I would definitely do is set up bursaries. Would give me a lot of pleasure to do so.

I am under the impression that taxes are lower in the US with some sort of expectation that charitable giving is a substitute. Also the tax benefits of charitable donations are higher there. I don't know it this is based on fact or just my misunderstanding. There is also a tendency to admit the children of alumni called legacy preference which probably happens here a little, but not at all to the same extent as in the US. If it was the cultural norm in the UK to donate to your old university in return for preferential treatment of your children then donations would be higher.

Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 23:28:09

True, breatheslowly.

Also, graduates there do earn more money... and at the same time, expenditure (e.g. housing) is a lot less.

SavoirFaire Thu 21-Feb-13 23:31:09

Never read that about legacy preference breatheslowly. V interesting. I believe the law prevents that in the UK. No idea whether that's watertight or not though.

Tasmania take your point about what careers post degrees, however my understanding is that even relatively 'lowly' state colleges attract significant donations from their alumni, in comparison with the UK (although much lower than ivy league). Average across US unis seems to be around 10%, ie the same as the highest in the UK.

SavoirFaire Thu 21-Feb-13 23:33:03

*about careers post degrees

excuse erroneous 'what'

MoreBeta Thu 21-Feb-13 23:34:37

I did donate to my college at university. Then they did something that I still feel very upset about 20 years later and I never donated again.

piprabbit Thu 21-Feb-13 23:38:03

Once a year, a lovely student from my old Uni phones me up for a nice chat and to ask me for money. I used to give while I was working, but can't at the moment as I have zero income, which tends to make the lovely student go a bit quiet.

Tasmania Thu 21-Feb-13 23:38:59


That probably filters down though from the top to the bottom. So, if Princeton gets 62%, then it goes all the way down to 10%. If the highest here in the UK get 10%, then it's not surprising that some get hardly anything...

Basically, if it is seen as 'normal' to donate, then people would. But as you can probably see, many here wouldn't even consider. It could really be about the fact that, in general, cost of living and taxes are is low, so for those who went to uni, and earn a decent living, there may be more disposable income. Here in the UK, cost of living is freakin' high - with graduate wages not really matching it at all. Families where both parents went to uni often struggle to have a few hundred pounds left over in the month, with many just about making it.

SavoirFaire Thu 21-Feb-13 23:48:02

Oh yes I agree Tasmania. I'm just highlighting the difference between the US and the UK and that, IMO, it is cultural. i.e. the culture is that it is 'normal' to donate. I'm not sure it is to do with cost of living tbh. Many of those who give in the US will give $10 or $15/month, so for most middle class families that's very affordable. I guess people in the UK generally just don't think about doing that. I did for quite a while. And then I stopped when I had children - my priorities changed and right now I have no disposable income after childcare anyway. I'd like to put some money towards in again in the future, largely because I think there's amazing research going on which is under resourced (I have friends who work in medical research at my alma mater as it happens and I know that they struggle to get the funding that they need) and I'd love to help support.

Tasmania Fri 22-Feb-13 00:10:18

Hmmm... it would be good to change the mentality in the UK.

I have now asked DH, and he said that because HE was free for such a long time in the UK, and fees only came into play in the past decade (and a bit), people do take it for granted, thinking it's a service the state will always pay for, so why bother. Whereas in the U.S., people tend to know it wouldn't work without the massive donations.

Also - the U.S. isn't really a "welfare state" like the UK, so if a little bit of education goes a long way, it isn't hard to see what would have happened if you had never had that opportunity. You feel lucky for what you have. Sometimes, a welfare state can make people a lot more selfish - if you see people around you living reasonably well, what's there to feel lucky for in your life? I know that's a very un-PC way of thinking, but brush all the political correctness aside, and that's how people really think.

malinois Fri 22-Feb-13 12:00:59

Tasmania It's cultural mainly I think. Even final year undergraduates (seniors) are expected to donate to the college (Senior Giving). You've got to remember that the Ivy League has the same function among the US elites as senior public schools do in the UK - albeit far more accessibly to ordinary people.

The friendships, contacts and society memberships (Sonorities,Fraternities and Honor Societies) that US undergrads are involved with define them for life in a way that is simply unfathomable to a non-American. It's completely cross-generational too.

None of the above applies to graduate students of course (who are not permitted to join the greek societies in any case) so I was just an interested observer smile

grovel Fri 22-Feb-13 15:28:41

My, unscientific, observation is that Americans are generally more hostile to tax than we are but are more generous in terms of philanthropy. We correspondingly expect more from government and they are more ready to fund things as individuals.

creamteas Fri 22-Feb-13 15:30:45

Education in the UK was free under the welfare state, so people didn't used to need to donate as they were paying via their taxes (according to their means).

In in two minds about encouraging donations now. On the one hand, universities and students desperately need the money. But on the other hand, there is a very real chance that this will lead to even less state support in future.

This thread reminds me of an old T shirt slogan when I was an u/g:

'Why can't schools and hospitals be funded and the Army run jumble sales for missiles instead'

TunipTheVegedude Fri 22-Feb-13 15:36:41

I have.
But only one of my old colleges. The other has gold leaf on the drainpipes and an extensive wine cellar so I'll leave it to them to scrape together some cash for scholarships.

Astelia Fri 22-Feb-13 15:51:34

I think that colleges in the US make much more of a fuss of their alumni than universities in the UK do of theirs- in the UK you might be invited back say 10 years after graduating, then after 20 and so on. In the US lots of colleges have homecoming every year, where everyone is invited to a weekend of partying, sports matches, formal meals and parades.

I suspect this goes a long way to making the alumni feel valued by the college, and encourages their generosity.

Astelia - Cambridge has an alumni weekend and both the university and the colleges have other events through the year. I have no idea whether attendance at these events is higher or lower than the US equivalents, but they do happen.

motherinferior Fri 22-Feb-13 18:44:29

My Oxford college has stopped phoning me since the time I urged the nice young woman phoning me to go off and get politically active and not waste her precious youth volunteering in behalf of an institution which is not short of a bob or two.

TunipTheVegedude Fri 22-Feb-13 19:22:00

Volunteering? Surely not?
I understood they were paid, and as it's work they can fit around their studies it seems perfectly sensible. They tend to be the ones who need the money so they can make a pretty good case for why some students really benefit.

SavoirFaire Fri 22-Feb-13 20:43:37

Oxbridge callers are definitely paid, or at a minimum will get free accommodation during the holidays. The brief they get isn't all about making money though (my cousin did it over the summer for an Oxford college and we talked about it quite a bit). They are genuinely keen to stay in contact with people. You might not give a penny, but be able to turn up and talk to students about how to get a job as a pig farmer (or whatever glamorous job you do...), encourage your employer to sponsor an event, encourage your own child or others to apply there, and maybe maybe leave them a hundred quid in your will. Fundraising is obviously a key part and I understand they're pretty successful, which is why so many unis now do it, but don't think they won't be interested in what you're up to if you don't have any money or have no inclination to give.

Patrickroy Fri 22-Feb-13 20:53:19

No - I went to an oxford college and really, no. I work in a not particularly well paid job and have an amount I give to charities each year - I think colleges who have more land than sense and whose students have already won the lottery by going there really do not need my help. I would rather give my money to cancer research.

SavoirFaire Fri 22-Feb-13 21:09:13

Cancer research work is mostly done in universities Patrickroy. Perhaps you could give to the university, rather than your college, to support that? www.cancercentre.ox.ac.uk/

Sorry, just being devil's advocate. It's Friday night!

Matsikula Fri 22-Feb-13 21:10:50

I gave my lovely student some career advice (or perhaps she was just pretending to be interested). My college is loaded, but it gives to less well provided for colleges in the university as well.

Someone asked about why the dark nights of the soul about my private school - it was just a non-confrontational way of saying that instinctively I don't really agree with private education, but I do agonise about it.

It's interesting the difference between donating to schools and donating to universities. Universities are genuinely competitive because any teenager can go there if they make the cut. But you can't really apply the same ruthless criteria to children, who all develop at different rates. That means that there is an under supply of elite school places compared to the number of children who might deserve them (as well as unequal geographical distribution). So the fact that Phillips Exeter Academy is 'needs blind' doesn't really make it properly egalitarian.

They do have a different approach in the states - I think it is also because they wear their educational achievements with pride, whereas I wouldn't be seen dead in a college sweatshirt. I also think fees are making things change here. I want people to have the experience I had without having to be born with a silver spoon in their mouth or getting ridiculously in debt.

TunipTheVegedude Fri 22-Feb-13 21:18:29

Patrick has a good point though. You look at any institution to which you are thinking about donating and say 'Are they going to spend the money well?' Some universities/colleges, the answer is probably not, judging by what they do with the money they already have.

Patrickroy Fri 22-Feb-13 22:27:09

I worked for the university for 7 years after I graduated too, for the centre in a role where I could see a lot of waste. Oxford has lots of partnerships with cancer research uk and they do vital research, you are right - but I'd still donate via cruk. They're probably as bad but I haven't been witness to it. in general, i prefer to donate to local hospices and causes etc than national charities with associated admin.
Anyway, with oxford certainly, it's your college that harasses you and it's mainly for their students and I do stand by the fact that by virtue of being at oxford in the first place the student has already been exceptionally fortunate. They are unlikely to end up unemployable and under an arch. I just think there are better causes. But each to their own.

SavoirFaire Fri 22-Feb-13 22:34:49

Totally take your point patrick. I don't know which of these bodies are more efficient in how they spend their money (I think charities have to publish that data do they?) although my possibly inaccurate guess would be that you're cutting out a middle man by giving to the centre rather than CRUK so possibly some admin saving. Don't know though. On scholarships though, I suppose the point of helping fund scholarships is that you give an opportunity to people who otherwise wouldn't get it (i.e. couldn't afford to go to that university without it) rather than giving to people who are already have the massive privilege of studying at that uni.

Patrickroy Fri 22-Feb-13 22:55:23

I think oxford now has one of the most generous bursary systems going for less well off students (because of some wealthy Americans - and I realise this somewhat defeats my point). So the poor are ok, the rich are ok as mama and papa pay but the middle end up with £50k of post uni debt. Maybe if I had enough I could set up a "the squeezed middle scholarship".
Despite all this though I still think that someone with 50k debt from oxford is in a better position that someone with £50k debt from almost any other university. And - to dragon's den it - for this reason, I'm out.

Southwest Fri 22-Feb-13 23:35:53

Friend of mine used to work for CRUK (in a research capacity) I found the stories about multiple first class flights between London and Manchester because they needed to use their budget up or they would loose it nauseating.

I dont trust how my uni would spend it, they already have lots of money and the American type cold calling makes my skin crawl.

Gave up sponsoring my child when the company linked up with a botteled water manufacturer (I still feel bad about that), I also hate those lets send a) someone rich and famous to tell us all how terrible poverty is
b) some random person

type stories

sorry charities but its an instant cross off from me if you've got that much spare cash

chuggers drive me crazy too, there are a lot more around recently I think

BTW I do still give regularly!

Southwest Fri 22-Feb-13 23:36:15


Southwest Fri 22-Feb-13 23:36:27

Flip it I can spell!!

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