Alumni donors are more important than ever to ensuring Truman’s tradition of excellence continues. Every year, thousands of alumni contribute back to their alma mater supporting scholarships, academic departments, athletics and more. Regardless of the size of the contribution, these gifts enhance the quality of the Truman experience for students and help build for the future.
While it’s certainly true that donations of all sizes make a big difference, that is a message that can be hard to communicate – especially to younger alumni. Unfortunately, the more time that passes after graduation, the less likely an alum is to give back at all. And those who do give back longer after graduating tend to give less than those who start giving back right after college.
This was a challenge that Colleen Ritchie (’84) understood very well from her service to the Foundation Board of Directors. The goal of the Foundation Board is to inspire philanthropy and impactful relationships with the University. Ritchie offered her own resources to do just that. She pledged $50,000 over five years to be used as challenge money to motivate young alumni and students to give back to Truman. Ritchie’s support helped donors see firsthand how their smaller gifts made a big difference during Truman’s first #BulldogsGiving. Thanks to her generosity, 225 alumni, parents, friends, faculty and staff gave back to the first #BulldogsGiving, starting a giving tradition that grew even larger the next year. In 2017, #BulldogsGiving featured five crowdfunding campaigns with campus groups working to attract donors to their cause. Within one week, 342 people had donated to the University in support of scholarships, the Truman band and athletics.
Ritchie’s matching funds have also supported student giving initiatives. Over the past two years, the student giving campaign has featured student-run crowdfunding campaigns competing for matching donations. The student giving campaigns worked not only to communicate the impact of smaller donations but also to show students how gifts benefit them directly. The 2018 campaigns raised money to equip the Bike Co-op with bikes for a bike share program, to provide free STI testing through the Student Health Center, sponsored by the Women’s Resource Center, and to upgrade radio equipment for KTRM. Run by students for students, more than $11,000 was raised for these three causes in one week. With match money, more than $21,000 went directly to causes important to students on campus.
Great things have happened because Ritchie invested in inspiring students and young alumni to give back, but that’s just the beginning. Ritchie has continued her commitment to creating a culture of philanthropy at Truman by making a pledge during the “Pursue the Future” campaign. Her vision will continue to help educate and motivate younger donors to get in the habit of giving back to Truman. About her goals for the future, Ritchie says, “Long term, my hope would be to turn these new donors into lifelong contributors, willing to give back to Truman by leaving their legacy behind. They make a significant impact by enabling future students to pursue the Truman way.”