Annual Giving

To:                Class of ’72 Executive Committee
From:           Tom Hoster ‘72
cc:                Sue Walsh, Tim Kingston ’87, Traslyn Butler
Date:            July 5, 2019
Re:                Annual Giving Results 2018-19

I am pleased to report that the Class of ’72 has completed another outstanding year in Annual Giving.  For the Annual Giving year 2018-19 – our 47th Reunion year – the class gave $261,000, while achieving a participation rate of 64.7%, with 521 out of 805 classmates participating.

At more than $261,000, our dollar total slipped a bit from recent non-major-reunion years. It may be because classmates are increasingly entering retirement.

Our participation rate of 64.7% marks the twenty-first year in a row that the Class of ’72 has been above the magic 60% level, a feat that no other class in our decade has come close to achieving.

Our participation was almost 17 percentage points above the average for the other nine classes in the decade of the seventies, including two major-reunion classes.  Our participation rate was 64.7%; the average for the other nine classes in our decade was 48.0%.

Put into a larger context, the Class of ’72 participation was the third-highest of the 49 youngest classes, a cohort that includes nine major-reunion classes. 

The graph below says it all.


Overall Campaign Results.  Annual Giving results were close to last year’s totals, bucking a national trend for giving to decline year-over-year.  At 55.4%, participation was close to the results of last year, and the $68.6 million that was raised was among the highest ever.  Both statistics make Princeton the envy of universities worldwide, and it is gratifying that the Class of ’72 adds to them the way that we do.  

Class of ’72 Efforts.  Our success validates, I believe, my central philosophy on solicitations – that we need to make our solicitations more personal, not more numerous.  It is a message that I try to deliver to my colleagues on the National Annual Giving Committee.  It is tempting – and easy – to hit classmates with a never-ending barrage of Princeton emails and other solicitations.  I will not let that happen.  For example, in June’s Class Numeral Challenge, classmates could have received as many as seven emails.  I limited it to two, and we still finished second in our decade with our results of the contest.

For our Class, “personal” means a personal phone call – even if it rolls to voice mail – and a personal handwritten note.  I made 165 phone calls in the months of May and June.  I wrote 244 personal hand-written notes, often following up on a phone call, in that same period.  I also sent 168 emails in May and June, but I made sure that each one was personalized – for example, I would make the subject line “One Week Left, Mike” and start the body of the email with “I hope things are good in Boston”.  That way, no one felt that they were on the receiving end of a mindless blast email. 

This was the fourth year that I have written a personal thank you note to each of our donors – 521 of them this year.  The Annual Giving office printed up notecards for me with a photograph of the lighted “72” sign that we have been using at our Reunion events.  I received a number of compliments on the card. 

I tried something new this year.  It occurred to me that, as terrific as the Class of ’72 note cards are, the only classmates receiving them are Annual Giving donors.  What if I used them to ask for gifts from chronic non-donors?  With that in mind, I sent hand-written cards featuring last year’s note card – the one that featured the Class of ’72 Dining Room – to 83 classmates who had given between 10 and 38 times, but not at all in the past five years, saying “We haven’t received a gift from you in a while; won’t you participate this year?”.  For all of that, we received five gifts.  That is pretty poor return for all of that effort, but that is the kind of effort that keeps our participation on top of the leader board. 

This was my 27th year as Class Agent.  It was another challenging year, but made easier by more than a dozen classmates who made calls and/or organized phonathons:  Ron Brown, Daryl English, Marty Franks, Doug Harrison, Barbara Julius, Chris Loomis, Rod McNealy, Merc Morris, Robby Robinson, Mike Schneider, Rob Smart, Ed Strauss, Tony Tichenor, and Bob Wright.  The Class of ’72 volunteer team has embraced the philosophy of making solicitations personal, fostering and continuing personal relationships with their chosen classmates.  Their outstanding results reflect that.

Beating 64% participation, especially in an off-year, is gratifying.  Outstanding participation in Annual Giving can be very hard to sustain – it seems that with every passing year, more classmates grow distant from the University and the class.  Retrieving those classmates and bringing them back into the Annual Giving fold can be a real challenge.  And let’s just say that the Admissions Office has not been our friend.  But we benefit from a Class leadership that believes that our Annual Giving results are a unifying theme that brings the class together. 

Classmates leave, but sometimes they do come back.  We had one donor this year who gave for the first time – 46 goose eggs and then a gift.  Go figure. 

In the Annual Giving office at Princeton, Traslyn Butler and her sidekick Wendy Dunn supplied us with everything we needed to be as productive as possible.  Since I started my class agent work 32 years ago, I have seen the Annual Giving office transition from mail to fax to the Internet – from printouts to downloads.  The AG Office continues to evolve with the times, now fully exploiting the available technology in their mission.   

Recent technology developments have made it easy to share documents, and thus to share “Best Practices”.  In that spirit, working with Traslyn, I posted many of my materials on a University-sponsored Google Docs site:  a tutorial I created for new Class Agents, my instructions to my class volunteers, some of my better solicitation letters, and scans of the thank-you note cards that I have used.  Traslyn made the materials available to the other Class Agents in our decade and beyond, and she received enthusiastic reviews from the people who accessed them.

The Class of ‘72 continues to be in an excellent position to extend our string of successful Annual Giving results as we continue in our fifth decade as alumni and head towards our 50th Reunion. 



Archived Annual Giving Report