When I arrived on campus at LMU eight years ago it wasn’t my first foray into life and work in academia. As I may have mentioned before, I spent two years in media relations at the University of Tennessee working for Lady Vol Athletics. Before that, there was the four years I spent as a student at St. Bonaventure University. Schools big or small; public or private; religiously affiliated or lay; vary greatly in size, structure and scope of their staff and administration. I have observed in every stop of my journey that public relations, media relations and marketing vary greatly depending on that structure.
Here at LMU, PR and Marketing is part of University Advancement. In my previous stops PR was grouped with communications as its own division. I will admit there it was an adjustment for me. I had to change my mindset slightly. Where I was used to focusing my attention on media relations and publicity above and beyond anything else, in University Advancement donor relations take precedent. Yes, a positive public image is always an end goal, but how our messaging will impact donors should also be considered. Even as a student, receiving donor-funded scholarships I had never considered a donors role at an institution.
Yesterday was designated as a Day of Giving at LMU. The day was set aside by President Dawson to encourage giving to LMU. Coming about a month ahead of National Philanthropy day, our goal was to encourage giving and make students, faculty and staff aware of how giving impacts everyone at LMU. It is easy to look at the rapid growth the University has experienced over the last decade and see the physical impact of large gifts to the University. There are Pope, Mitchell, Dishner, Langley, Shelton and Burchett residence halls. All of the new residence halls were built with funds from generous donors. Not to mention the new academic buildings or renovation and revitalization of some of our most storied structures.
What you can’t always see is how gifts large and small have indirect impacts for the University. I give through payroll deduction. My monthly gift of $20 comes out of my paycheck and I don’t even miss it. That is $240 for the year, not a huge donation or commitment on my part. One might argue it is like taking a decrease in pay, but I know that gift makes a difference. Not only can LMU put my $20 a month in to the annual fund, they also can count me in the employee giving rate. In fact, the division of University Advancement has a 100% giving rate. That means everyone in our division makes at least one gift in a year.
Giving rates are tools that grant funders, foundations and philanthropists often request when deciding what organizations that they will support. The rate at which employees and alumni giving paint a powerful picture of the support an institution enjoys. The great thing about giving rates is that is a calculation of participation. Whether you give $1, $240 or $1,000 you are counted.
Giving rates also have an effect on rankings and recognition for a school. In the latest US News and World Report college rankings LMU made gains in its ranking on the Regional Universities list, moving from No. 80 to No. 66. One of the categories looked at in compiling that list is giving rates.
I support LMU because I believe in its mission. I believe that education at every level improves a person’s quality of life and I believe that LMU is making lives better by providing educational opportunities in Appalachia and beyond. And I believe that my $20 a month makes a difference for LMU. I see it every day and I challenge you to consider matching my gift with a gift of your own. It doesn’t have to be made monthly and it doesn’t have to be more than $1, but think of the good we could do if every person who reads this entry gave to LMU.