University increases President's Circle donation levels

AU will increase the minimum donation level for President’s Circle recognition by $1,500 starting May 1.

This is the first increase since 1986, according to an article by Thomas Minar, vice president of development and alumni relations, in the January 2012 edition of American magazine.

President’s Circle recognizes the University’s top donors.

Claire Taylor, coordinator for stewardship and donor relations in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, explained the changes in a Feb. 9 article on AU’s website.

The article outlined the new monetary groupings for each new recognition level:

• John F. Kennedy Associates: $2,500–$4,999

• Herbert C. Hoover Associates: $5,000–$9,999

• Theodore Roosevelt Associates: $10,000–$24,999

• William McKinley Associates: $25,000–$49,999

• Benjamin Harrison Associates: $50,000 and above

President Harrison signed the congressional act chartering AU in 1893.

The decision to increase the recognition levels occurred in December 2010 after AU concluded its AnewAU Campaign, Sarah Petrie, director of stewardship and donor relations, said in an email.

“It is [a] customary practice of universities and other organizations to re-evaluate recognition levels after concluding fundraising campaigns,” Petrie said. “Similar changes have been implemented recently at several of [AU’s] peer institutions, to name a couple: Bucknell University and the George Washington University School of Law.”

A majority of AU’s donations come from alumni and friends of AU. However, the University also receives funds from external sources including corporations and foundations, Petrie said.

One of the goals for next fiscal year includes renovations to the McKinley building for the School of Communications, Minar said in his American article.

AU will launch its next phase of the Campaign for SOC Feb. 22 to raise $13 million to restore McKinley for SOC, Petrie said.

The project will cost approximately $26 million and will consolidate SOC in one building instead of the six current locations it occupies on campus, according to AU’s website.

The University hopes to recognize more meaningfully the funds that are donated to the University through raising donation levels, Taylor said in the Feb. 9 article.

“We took a close look at one of our beloved traditions, the President’s Circle, which revealed a concerning trend: declining gift impact given the rising expenses of solicitation and stewardship,” said Minar in American. “After a study of peer institutions, analyses of current support and consultation with University leadership, we made the decision to increase membership levels.”

Taylor also noted that donors who continue to donate in the $1,000--$2,499 range will be invited to new recognition events in spring 2013.

Events for donors at the $1,000-$2,499 level include regional reception-style recognition events and two larger events that will be hosted in D.C. and New York City in the spring, Petrie said.

“The events are an opportunity to show our appreciation, provide opportunities to interact with and learn from University leadership and faculty, network with each other and keep our donors engaged in the life of the University,” Petrie said.

Donors who meet and exceed the $2,500 mark in the new fiscal year will be invited to the October 2012 President’s Circle dinner and will be formally recognized as contributors to AU in fall 2012 recognition material, according to the Feb 9. announcement.

“We would not be where we are today without philanthropic support from gifts small to large,” Minar said in American.

The Office of Development and Alumni Relations does not advertise, but the University has made investments in alumni outreach and has kept donations from dropping during the recession through this outreach, Petrie said.

AU has raised $1.5 million more in donations this year than at this time last year, Petrie said.

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