FAMU Alumni donation rates are bleak


Most alumni love to boast about graduating from FAMU. But when asked if they give back to their school, many of those same alumni go quiet.

So why are alums being asked if they give back in the first place? Giving back to your alma mater is something that many alumni should want to do already.  

Currently, the alumni give back rate is close to four percent, a small increase from last year’s rate of two percent. It’s anyone’s guess as to why this number is so low. But according to the Vice President of University Relations Carla Willis there are several reasons why alumni don’t give back.

“They haven’t been asked to support activities, programs, or initiatives that are of interest to them. Or they have other philanthropic priorities, such as, church, United Way, or their graduate school, if they attended FAMU for an undergraduate degree.”

Alumni giving back amounts to more than just getting nice parking spaces at the games, discounts on certain items, or getting your name written somewhere for the whole campus to see. The money from alumni is used for fundinguniversity programs that are not fully funded by the state legislature. Recently FAMU has been working on obtaining money to start a dentistry school. With $1.5 million being set aside in the 2010-2011 year, these alumni donations will help the university reach its goal. Donations will also assist in the Tom Joyner Online Education initiative. With many people all over the U.S. wanting to obtain degrees, alumni donations will supplement this joint grassroots effort by Joyner and FAMU. For those alumni who love our athletic programs, for example, football, booster contributions will help put turf in Bragg Stadium or, better yet, increase Bragg Stadium’s size.

However, contributions would not just improve the appearance of campus and the quality of programs; they supplement the education of need-based students as well. Over 50 percent of FAMU’s students receive need-based financial aid. With alumni donations, scholarships and grants can be created and distributed to more students who need help paying for classes and books.

When alumni are heavily involved with their alma mater by sending in donations to certain programs or areas it gives the school a positive public image. The alumni participation rate is one of many factors used by corporations and foundations as an indicator of the university’s commitment to excellence and innovation. Simply put, not only does this make the contributor feel good, it makes the school look good as well.

One of the main excuses people give about alumni not bothering to give back is because of the poor customer service they might have received as students. We all know that standing in those long lines in the financial aid office is nothing new. But maybe with donations from alumni we could make much-needed improvements, like holding customer service training seminars for every university employee who interacts with students daily, or hiring outside of the university’s norms.

Because the alumni give back rate is so low, efforts are underway to fix the problem. “We are asking more often through more direct mail and increasing our recent phone-a-thon initiative. Additionally, getting them more engaged in alumni activities that are meaningful to them and providing value-added resources, such, career services, discounts on purchases, free mail, et cetera,” said Willis in an email.  The university’s efforts seem as though they will be effective, given alumni are just as gung-ho about moving the university forward.

Current students should not follow in the footsteps of the majority of current alumni. It is important that the student body realizes the importance of giving back to the university. Their benevolence has the potential to dramatically transform the appearance of FAMU and improve the status of our heralded academic programs. It should be a priority for the current generation of students to enhance student life at the university for future generations of Rattlers to enjoy.  Hopefully, taking the university’s well-being into consideration will cause a chain reaction, hence ensuing FAMU students will feel compelled to monetarily contribute to the greater good of the school.

But increasing the give-back rate is not solely up to current students and alumni. Administrators, painstaking as it may be, must seriously address the customer service problems that students may encounter during their time here. While their efforts to reach out to current alumni are commendable given past initiatives, they must come up with a way to charm students into giving back from the moment they arrive on the Hill.

As of late, it’s obvious that giving back to FAMU is a priority for alumni, although many may not even be aware of how to go about doing so.  Maybe some think giving back is all about clout and speaks to one’s status… but it’s more than that. It’s what aids the schools improvement, making more an education viable for the sake of those it serves.