Seven members of the Student Philanthropy Committee holding a red bow, which will be placed around campus during Generosity Week on buildings that were made possible through donations. From top left: Morten Tastum, Alexa Kristin Carbajal, Madeline Meininger, Natalie Gallo, bottom left: Sausha Gruca, Megan Kenny, Sascha Rosemond (Photo courtesy of David Carrillo)

To Give or Not to Give?

Student Philanthropy Committee puts on Generosity Week to highlight the importance of giving back to USF

USF seniors have been asked to donate to the “Senior Class Gift” by the University — some receiving soliciting letters or phone calls months before their graduation asking students to donate money back to the school. Some of these students have expressed frustration at being asked to give money to USF so soon, as they have either paid an expensive tuition or incurred debt. Despite the controversy, this year’s Senior Class Gift is currently at $8,621, with 128 donors contributing (30 more donors than in 2013). To educate students about the realities of donating to the university, the Student Philanthropy Committee (SPC) will be putting on Generosity Week, beginning Monday Feb. 24.

The Committee was formed with the aim of “reinventing the senior gift program to make it more student-focused and to add continuity,” according to Christopher Anderson, Director of Annual and Special Giving. Prior to the Committee’s formation, “there was a disjointed approach to the Senior Gift in which each year a group of seniors came together to raise money for the USF cause du jour,” Anderson said. “The SPC’s focus is helping current and future USF students have access to more scholarship support.”

In order to celebrate the donors to the USF community and educate students on the importance of giving, the Student Philanthropy Committee will be hosting a number of events in honor of their newly implemented Generosity Week.

Another thing the SPC wants to educate students on during Generosity Week is that, “only 80% of tuition covers what it costs to go here,” according to Mitchell Felton, Campus Constituents Gifts and Engagement Officer of the SPC. The other 20% comes from donations. This is a large part of why the SPC implements the Senior Gift.

Anderson explained that 70% of students at USF are on some form of financial aid, and many of those students wouldn’t have been able to attend school here if it weren’t for the donations made to the Scholarship Fund. One hundred percent of the donations made from the Senior Gift go to the USF Scholarship Fund, which is distributed by financial aid in order to give students need-based aid so they can attend USF.

“We’re never going to ask somebody for whom it is a hardship to make a gift but I hope they realize that their USF experience had been made possible thanks to the generosity of others,” said Anderson. He went on to say, “More than anything I ask that [students] not be offended and understand that the reason that we ask is that it helps students. If we didn’t ask, there’d be less financial aid for students.”

Last semester, a USF student  was indeed offended and wrote a heated opinion piece regarding the impropriety of the solicitations. The piece was held, however The Foghorn questioned Anderson about it, who responded:
“…I almost think it’s a failing on our part for not doing a good enough job of explaining to students the reality of the situation at USF. I don’t think we do a good job at teaching people that gifts are so important. Malloy Hall wouldn’t be possible without Tom Malloy, or the Kalmanovitz Hall, that was the Kalmanovitz foundation, Koret Plaza was Susan Koret. There is also a broad base of alumni support that makes a lot of things possible,” said Anderson.

Anderson and Felton explained another reason for asking students to donate: there are corporations and foundations that look at the quality of a university and decide who to give grants worth millions to, according to Anderson.

One of the main things they look at is alumni satisfaction. “They calculate that by how many alumni have given back to the university so when they do those numbers, seniors will be alumni,” said Felton, explaining why they ask seniors to donate before graduation.

Felton stressed that it doesn’t matter how big a donation is, it can be anywhere from $1 to $1,000 or more. “If you feel like you’ve had a great experience at USF, I think it’s important to give back at least to show that you are supportive of giving someone else the same experience you did,” he said.

Sausha Gruca, a student member of the SPC, said she is a huge advocate for students helping students and therefore the Senior Gift. “If current students can pay it forward and realize that the money they give, no matter the amount, is going to allow future students to succeed and have a chance, then I strongly believe senior students and young alums would want to help. If it was not for all of the financial aid I receive I would not be at this amazing school,” she said.

For students that make a donation of $50 or more while they’re attending USF, they become a President’s Ambassador (PA), which includes free access to the library after graduation, a medal to be worn on graduation, a free parking pass for nights and weekends on campus, as well as an invitation to the annual President Ambassador’s brunch, which is now part of Generosity Week.

The week will begin with a kick off in Gleeson Plaza, with opportunities for the USF community to meet the SPC and write thank you notes to donors from 11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m on Monday Feb. 24. Food trucks will be arriving at 11:00 a.m. and staying until 3:00 p.m., with 10% of the proceeds going to the USF Scholarship Fund.

They will also be putting on a Faculty and Staff Donor Happy Hour, which is scheduled for Tuesday Feb. 25 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., as well as a SPC and Senior Class Representative Study Break on Thursday Feb. 27 in Gleeson Plaza from 11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Students are invited to come learn more about philanthropy at USF over free coffee and support the PAWS bake sale.

In conclusion of the week, The President Ambassador’s brunch will occur on Sunday, Mar. 2 in the McLaren Conference Center Complex from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

In an increased effort to educate students on philanthropy at USF, Tiye Sheppard, a recipient of scholarships, was apart of the USF Scholarship campaign.
Sheppard said, “this was a great opportunity for me to vocalize my appreciation and hopefully encourage donors to continue supporting the educational advances of USF students.”

Madeline Meininger, a student member of the SPC, thinks giving is an integral part of the university as, “USF is a non-profit. As students, we benefit from its services and generally support its purpose and mission so if we have the means to give back financially, it makes sense to do so in our philanthropic world,” she said.

Sheppard is grateful to those that have made donations, because, “scholarships truly have a ripple effect. Thanks to the financial assistance I receive from USF, I have not only bettered myself, but I have encouraged and influenced others to do the same.”

Tanya Dzekon contributed to the reporting.

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