When looking at Goucher’s operating budget, one may be surprised to learn that tuition, room, and board cover about 67% of the cost for a student to attend the college. So, what makes up for the other 33% that those fees don’t cover? According to Annual Giving Officer Greg Permison, that money comes from grants, scholarships, graduate programs, and, most importantly, the Greater Goucher Fund and Gophers for Goucher.
“The Greater Goucher Fund is what I call money putty,” Permison explained. “It fills in the gaps. It plugs holes that tuition and other additional revenue may not cover.”
Within the Greater Goucher Fund is Gophers for Goucher, a student-donation fund that allows students to, “give back to the school in unrestricted ways.” Instead of students putting their money towards a bench or a new gazebo, the money they donate goes towards various projects around campus.
The initiative, which began four years ago, stemmed from the discouraging attempts to get seniors to donate to their senior class gift.
“You can’t target seniors to be philanthropic when they are on their way out and there is a lot of anxiety about what’s next,” Permison said. “Seniors don’t have rear view mirrors. … So I think what happened was, Gophers for Goucher birthed out of the idea of, we need all students to be philanthropic. Not just targeting one specific class.”
Gophers for Goucher is meant to eliminate the senior gift mentality and encompass the idea of donating to the campaign as early as freshman year. To achieve this goal, Gophers for Goucher has a three-pronged approach: educate, cultivate, and retain.
Permison believes they have achieved the education and brand awareness piece. “Getting the word out is part of that education component,” he said. “So that when you are asked to give money, you will have at least some kind of semblance of what that means. You may not understand exactly, but you will [recognize it]. Every student on campus needs to be at least aware of Gophers for Goucher.”
However, in terms of cultivation, Permison believes “it’s not where it should be.”
“The key with any kind of solicitation and cultivation of the donation is the relationship,” he explained. “Fundraising is nothing more than ‘friendraising.’ We all have a generic affinity in place and that’s Goucher. We care about it, we love it, we want to see it thrive. Selfishly, we want it to be the best it can be while we are here, but we know that’s not going to happen. The school is going to be 10 times better 10 years out and 20 times better 20 years out.”
Therefore, the goal of Gophers for Goucher is to get students to show their appreciation for everything Goucher has given them by giving back.
“When you give money to your alma mater, you really are high-fiving your school and saying ‘thanks again.’”
Permison encourages students to give as little or as much as they can. “At this day in age, 5 bucks is just one less cup of coffee and it makes a heck of a lot more of an impact than the caffeine you probably skipped. A $5 gift, it’s no different than a $1,000 gift. You are making just as much of an impact. You are counted the same in participation rates, you are going to be stewarded the same. We don’t look at any donor any differently because of the amount they give. “
And one thing Permison stresses is how weak Goucher students’ relationship is to philanthropy. “Our participation rate is horrible. It’s embarrassing because I know for a fact that our students are more compassionate and more philanthropic than these other peer institutions. If you believe in your school, show support.”
To counter-act the lack of participation, Permison wants to get students to start donating their freshman year and retain their support all the way until they are seniors and eventually alumni.
“I have donated to the Greater Goucher Fund for the past three years and will continue to do so once I have graduated Goucher College,” Carol Mach Baretto Pino ’14 said. “If an individual has shown us how much they care about Goucher by donating three years in a row, they may have formed a philanthropic habit of giving to Goucher College. This really helps the institution in the long run. It has also helped me build philanthropic habits of my own.”
Pino first began involved in Gophers for Goucher her freshman year after her introduction to arts administration class discussed the need to understand philanthropy in the non-profit arts world. The values she has learned from working with Gophers for Goucher has allowed her to believe that her peers should “take ownership of their institution. It’s a direct refection of how much they value their education and of how much they treasure their institution.”
“This school needs our students to reciprocate; student philanthropy needs to be contagious,” Permison said. “Realistically, [the money] goes back to the students. That’s why I think Gophers for Goucher is so important. It helps keep the library open 24 hours a day, it pays for some stipends to study abroad, it helps with some visiting lecturers… it helps make up the difference.”