Million/Ten/Sixty: Doing the Math

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For ten consecutive years, the college has enjoyed more than sixty percent alumni participation.
This year, that accomplishment came with a $1 million dollar bonus.
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By John Syme

There was even more tooting of Davidson horns than usual at the end of the 2012 fiscal year on June 30. From boardrooms around the nation to brick sidewalks around Chambers, Davidsonians of all stripes made a joyful noise in celebration of the Million/Ten/Sixty Challenge—met!

Annual Fund goals this year were about more than just the stellar national success Davidson has enjoyed in the past decade. Yes, it’s true that fiscal year 2012 was the tenth year that the college has enjoyed alumni giving participation over 60 percent. That’s a big deal, comparatively speaking. Tops, in fact.

But this year, there was more.

The final alumni participation number, a record-breaking 64.32 percent, was due in no small part to this year’s unique Million/ Ten/Sixty Challenge.

The Challenge

Last December, a group of four current and former trustees issued a challenge: If the Annual Fund achieved 60 percent alumni participation for the tenth year in a row, these trustee donors would give $1 million to this year’s Annual Fund.

“It’s not an accident that Davidson is one of the best schools in the country,” said one of the trustees behind the Million/Ten/ Sixty Challenge. “Davidson’s dedication to excellence in academics and in Division I athletics, our longstanding commitment to attracting and enrolling the best students regardless of financial need, and our legacy of leadership and service—these have been strengthened by the extraordinary generosity of our many donors. Our alumni ensure Davidson’s excellence, year after year. We’re making this investment now because we want to ensure that our alumni will do that again, for the tenth year in a row.”

They did—and how!—from currently enrolled seniors who would only officially become alumni a few weeks before the end of the fiscal year, to alumni of long standing who pitched in to set individual class records of their own.

Live from Davidson!

“Many seniors ‘got it’ right off the bat,” said Caitlin Allen ’12, who co-chaired with Brian Russell ’12 her class’s achievement of a giving rate more than 94 percent.

Nearly a third of 2012 classmates kicked things off at the beginning of last year with a pledge at their Senior Salute, the annual “expo” aimed at facilitating the business of being a senior (class rings, commencement robes, Careers Office updates, Annual Fund pledges, etc.). “They really got it, when we told them, ‘Tuition only covers 60 percent of the annual costs of being a student here, and the money you’re giving now is going directly into the Annual Fund and being used live.’”

The dollar amount of a pledge is not as important as the fact of an individual choosing to participate said Allen. A post-graduate Jesuit Volunteer at a free health clinic in Detroit she plans to make a gift in fiscal 2013 of exactly $20.12, for her class year.

“If you had a good experience at Davidson, or even if you want to change things at Davidson, it’s important to give back, to be connected, to stay engaged, to stay in the conversation,” she said. “It does count. It matters. It shows a lot of student satisfaction with the school.”

“It does count. It matters. It shows a lot
of student satisfaction with the school.”

Doing the Math

The overall rate of alumni giving participation is a statistically pure number,one that is not open to a lot of different interpretations. That’s important, particularly in a cybertime when anyone can rank anything anywhere for any reason.

Some years ago, Davidson joined a group of like-minded peer institutions in eschewing the citation of all third-party, newsstand “best of” rankings in the college’s public relations and promotional materials.

Linda LeFauve, Davidson’s associate vice president for planning and institutional research, explains: “Any ranking algorithm accounts only for the data presumed important to the algorithm’s creator, and subjects those data to mathematical and statistical manipulation that strips them of gradation and meaning. At best, a rank represents an inadequate summary of otherwise useful individual pieces of information; at worst, it is cover for an implicit agenda. Davidson has an excellent grasp of what matters to us, and we do not shortchange the measurement of what matters by twisting it until it fits in someone else’s predetermined template.”

One of the things that matters most to Davidson is The Davidson Trust, which supports the college’s longstanding commitment to need-blind admission and its historic decision in 2007 to meet 100 percent of demonstrated need of accepted students through a combination of grants and campus employment, with no loans.

Support for The Davidson Trust ranges from a transformational gift from Ted Baker ’57 announced at Commencement (see Summer 2012 issue) to the Davidson College Student Government Association’s annual Dinner at Davidson, which raised $50,000 last February, enough for two expendable scholarships for students with financial need.

And of course, the Annual Fund itself stands as a central support, celebrating record-setting participation by Davidson alumni for ten years.

And counting.

Read the “Thank You” and watch the video.

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