Through donations to WPI’s Annual Fund, alumni, parents, and those who support WPI’s mission show their support for the university’s commitment to advancing science and engineering studies and research.
Five appeal mailings are sent every year (one just went out) to ask for financial donations that directly fund items or events that will benefit the school. “We have a very loyal alumni universe,” says Jennifer Gamache, director of annual giving in University Advancement.“People sincerely want to give back. They see the connection between their education from WPI and where they are now in their lives.”
Many alumni recognize the Annual Fund envelopes, but the Annual Fund’s secret weapon is the student-staffed call center that offers a priceless human connection. “For a lot of alumni, the student call center is the only contact they have with the school once they graduate,” says Gamache. “It is as important as maintaining that relationship as it is raising money.”
The call center gives current students and alumni a chance to talk about their beloved alma mater. Any hesitation about asking for money eases as student callers talk up the university they are so passionate about.
“The alumni are awesome,” says sophomore biomedical engineering major Jacquelyne DiTroia, who has worked in the student call center since last year. “They tell me stories of how they had a good time here, what they did on campus, and the last time they were here. Many of them tell me how much they look forward to getting the call every year.” And DiTroia says she enjoys hearing what life at WPI was like for alumni. “The campus has changed physically,” she says, “but the academics seem the same. They tell me how much the project work helped them in their careers.”
Alumni and parents are not the only ones giving back to WPI. Gamache notes how the faculty and staff campaign at WPI is also successful, with all levels of employees giving back to the university. “This is a small campus and students are coming and going all the time,” says Gamache. “You never have any doubt who your money is going to help.”
Alumni at WPI are traditionally a generous bunch, and Gamache says every gift is appreciated and put to good use. Younger alumni often have student loans to pay off on top of other expenses and may feel that a small contribution isn’t enough to change anything. “Everything makes a difference,” says Gamache, noting that several small donations quickly add up to a faculty stipend, a student scholarship, or needed equipment. And if they can’t donate, it’s important to stay connected to WPI. “At the student call center they might hear people say they want to give, but can’t afford to yet,” says Gamache. “That is as valuable as a donation.”
This year, donors can earmark their donations for certain so-called buckets: academics, student life, financial aid, athletics, and unrestricted use. For example, parents of athletes tend to designate their gift to that category, while an alumnus who was deeply influenced by a professor might choose to designate a gift to academics. Older alumni, says Gamache, tend to understand that the unrestricted designation is most helpful to the university as a whole. The unrestricted funds give the university the opportunity to put the funds where they are needed most – whether that is toward an unexpected influx of students, a faculty seminar, or even an event. “If there isn’t an unrestricted fund to do that, those opportunities can go by,” says Gamache.
Donations can be made online at the Annual Fund’s giving page HERE