Poll: The giving tree

May 05 2011 Published by under [Education&Careers], [Et Al]

One thing that took me a bit to get used to at my institution is the regular emails and mail fliers to give money to the institution. I can understand that the development people want to turn over every stone in their constant cash search, but ffs, really? My donation last year was the raise I didn't get.

But perhaps this is a common practice that I am unaware of. So, to the polls!

19 responses so far

  • Science Professor says:

    This post reminded me of an old incident: http://science-professor.blogspot.com/2007/04/pay-back.html

  • Patchi says:

    Private institutions depend on donations from alumni and "friends" to function and be able to give financial aid to students that can't afford the big bucks. I got a full scholarship for my undergrad, so I give back when I can. But with all these budget cuts we will start seeing a lot more fund raising campaigns at public institutions too. What I really don't understand is why charity is good but taxes are bad...

  • proflikesubstance says:

    What I really don't understand is why charity is good but taxes are bad...

    Because charity makes people feel good and is a choice. Even if we were required to donate 10% of gross income, at least people could chose where it goes.

    But, I'm not talking about giving back to an institution you went to as an undergrad or grad student, I'm talking about donating money to where you work.

  • Nat says:

    The problem I have with how some people (not directed at you PLS) frame the charity vs. taxes decision is that I often feel it's a cover to limit support to those who are like the giver, whether it's looks the same, prays the same, etc.

    That's not always the case of course, and there are plenty of ways taxes are perverted in whom they benefit.

    Besides, I feel good when I pay my taxes. As Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "I like to pay taxes. With them I buy civilization."

    Seriously though, asking your employees to contribute is somehow odious to me.

  • My contribution to the University is to tell them that they could save some money by firing everybody in the fundraising department. Your contribution, dear PLS, is called overhead. Please do not give them money, it just encourages them.

  • studyzone says:

    I still keep in touch with faculty from my undergrad institution (private SLAC). In one annual report sent out to donors, I noticed that many biology faculty had contributed that year. Talking to my former advisor, she mentioned (I didn't ask) that the university had been pressuring faculty for years to contribute to the annual fund, so the biology faculty decided as a whole that if/when the desperately-needed new science building was approved, that would be when they would contribute. The new building was approved, and the faculty contributed enough money together to the building fund to earn a matching donation from a donor. Whenever I get my own faculty position, I imagine those are the circumstances under which I'd feel comfortable giving money back to the university.

  • Namnezia says:

    I get twice the mailings, one for being faculty and one for being an alumni.

  • I voted "under the right circumstances", but I think that's the scientist in me making caveats. The "right circumstances" have certainly never yet come up.

  • rknop says:

    At Caltech, I was in a PhD program. They didn't have a terminal masters program in Physics (to my knowledge). However, the masters requirements were a subset of the PhD requirements, so after two or three years most of us would fill out the paperwork and get an MS. (It's a safety thing; if you don't finish your PhD, at least you have something to show.)

    Shortly after I got my MS, I started getting calls from the alumni office. I tried to explain that I was *still a student there*, a broke PhD student nonetheless. (Although science PhD students aren't nearly as broke as humanities PhD students, it's true.) The person on the phone instead started talking about all the poor students trying to get an education, didn't I care... deaf to my protestations that I still *was* one of them.

    I think that was the moment I decided I would never give an alumni donation to Caltech. (I *have* given some to my undergraduate institution, although I must admit it's been quite a while.) Anecdotally, there seem to be a number of people who don't want to give alumni donations to their PhD institution; perhaps this is a side effect of how painful grad school usually is?

    Re: asking employees to give, Vanderbilt used to do that, I think. My memory gets fuzzy; I think there were two things. One was a general charity drive organized through Vanderbilt. the other was to give *to* the institution. The latter I always thought was very weird. It seems like an attempt to build a perpetual-motion machine; I always wondered if they knew about the second law of thermodynamics.

  • fizzchick says:

    Glad it's not just my Ph.D. granting institution that pulls
    that - we had a similar thing, where after a certain number of
    credits and appropriate paperwork, you could get an M.A. along the
    way. Of course, this promptly got you entered in the "alumni"
    lists. After several calls saying don't do this to your Ph.D.
    students, I finally got annoyed enough to call and tell them to
    NEVER have me on their list again. Amazingly, it seems to have
    worked. I would consider giving to the department, but never to the

  • I think hitting up PhD students for money during their PhDs, after filling out the paperwork for a masters is quite common. It certainly happened to me. After the first time trying to explain the situation, I just say "no thank you" and hang up. At some universities, post docs are also considered students, so there's a third institute to become an alumni donor of. I think a post docs duties are far more employee like than student like, (and there's no terminal piece of paper), and I think these phone calls will be the most annoying to me when they come.

  • Jim Thomerson says:

    After retirement, I have contributed to my university, to the Office of Research and Projects. They supported my work all along and I don't mind supporting what they do. I also give some money, use specified, to my PhD institution, which treated me very well. Incidentally, I do not accept telephone solicitation, no matter how worthy the cause.

  • Q says:

    I'm a postdoc at a massive state school, where employee
    donations are solicited annually. This year *I* got a gift from the
    fundraiser people, presumably to guilt me into making a donation. I
    haven't donated, although I considered (pre guilt gift) donating to
    the departmental outreach fund, which I think is a worthy cause.
    The ability to stipulate where your money goes is nice. I'd never
    give anything if I thought it was going toward a football
    scholarship, for instance.

  • Natalie says:

    I get a dual-purpose "gift-calendar" each year: guilt trip and free promo at the institution I now work.

  • kc says:

    Huh, I regularly give to the institution where I work. I do usually give specifically to a fund to support undergrad study abroad experiences. Most of our undergrads are from the rural midwest, many are first-generation college students, and many would not be able to do a study abroad without some additional financial assistance. The place where I went to undergrad is private, with a massive endowment. It's a great place, but I think my dollars do more at the regional state school where I work.

  • Ink says:

    I do give in certain circumstances to certain people/causes. But my knee-jerk reaction to the annual money-beg is exactly what you said: "My donation last year was the raise I didn't get. "

  • Kees says:

    I think I will never donate money to my institution; it seems like a very inefficient way to promote research. If I want to help my institutution, I'll just "forget" to get my traveling expenses reimbursed.

  • Patchi says:

    I agree. We should just stop calling it taxes - membership dues are more the way to go. If you want to belong you better pay up.

Leave a Reply