I have donated to my undergrad college every year since receiving my diploma in 1996. I got a great education there, had a great time, made a lot of great friends, and in many ways, became the person I am today. I happily give a small amount every year.
One of the things that I had grown to look forward was receiving a calendar, which was always sent out to those who had donated in the prior year. The twelve month calendar was great for hanging at work, and featured pictures of the college, sometimes from the ‘old days’ and sometimes from how things are today.
I was a little bit disappointed when I did not receive a calendar for 2011. Around December, when the calendar typically arrives, I got an envelope that I thought was the annual calendar. I opened it up, ready to take it into work for the coming year, but found instead a donor appreciation report. It was essentially a big, glossy report listing everybody who donated money.
I did the typical action that probably everybody goes through, which is first look for my name, then look through my graduating class to see who donated and who didn’t.
Then, it went into the recycling.
I still thought a calendar might be on the way, but as it turns out, they decided to suspend the calendar. The reasons being that it took a lot of effort and cost a lot, and they thought maybe they could get by without it.
Turns out a lot of people complained, so much that when I inquired, the first sentence in the response was assuring me that the calendar would be resumed in 2012. Apparently they had decided to do the donor report in lieu of the calendar this year.
Feedback was, according to the person that responded, overwhelmingly negative.
I guess they probably got a lot of feedback that without the calendar, many alumni would cancel their donations. I never would do that, and I actually made it clear when I inquired that I wasn’t threatening to stop donations nor were my donations tied to the expectation of receiving a calendar. The only expectation that had been set, really, was the fourteen calendars I’ve received year after year.
I pointed out that, while the donor report was nice, it only got one or two looks per year before getting discarded, whereas the calendar got looked at hundreds of times a year. That’s hundreds of times to think about the college which could then play into whether someone chose to donate to them at some point.
I think they realized this and realized their mistake. The calendar was seen by many as a token of goodwill, as a token of appreciation, and as a comfortable year after year reminder that they could look forward to. I really hope that none of my fellow alums stop donating because they didn’t get their calendar this year, but I am also very glad to hear that the college is going to re-institute their practice of sending out the calendar (and keeping the memories alive for those of us who look forward to seeing little reminders on our walls).