This post isn't about Uncle Sam.  It isn't about taxes or the Fourth of July. It isn't about your resume. It is about your school, and my friends Amy, Catherine, Annie, Bill, Beth, and a host of former colleagues. All of these friends and colleagues share something in common: high stress in June. You see, they raise money to support the institutions they work for, and June 30 represents the end of the fiscal year for fundraising.

There are some grumblings that are universal no matter where you went to school. One of these is the request--generally made in your senior year or shortly after graduation--to give money to your school. The response: "I've paid tens of thousands of dollars for my education, why should they expect me to give more? No way." This is often followed by a shrugging of the shoulders, and another statement "After all, I have loans to pay." Uncle_sam_pointing_finger

I'm writing to suggest something wildly unpopular. Essentially, I ask you to open your wallet today, and send money back to your school. Here are a few reasons why it's important:

  1. Many schools have less money this year to cover basic costs, including the cost of tuition.

    A majority of schools use supplemental financial support in order to cover the full cost of student tuition. While you may think your tuition bills were high, they could be higher. Many programs and operating expenses for schools are often paid through the interest earned on a campus's overall endowment. In a down market, the stock market also drags down endowments.  Many institutions have lost millions this year--even before alums started writing smaller checks or no checks at all.

  2. When schools have less money, they may trim class offerings, reduce services, and do less maintenance on campus. All of these things can affect the health of the institution--as well as overall rankings.

    Imagine that you are enrolled in a Master's degree program. You have completed half of your courses, and then the program is eliminated. At some schools, this is a reality.

  3. A key measure of institutional success is the alumni participation in annual giving campaigns. When you give, you are supporting your alma mater and recognizing the role that they played in your education. That participation rate says to the world, "Our alumni are proud of the education they have received. They are successful. We produce good outcomes." Which, in turn, helps the institution maintain it's reputation--and helps you.

    If the institution has gotten more selective since you graduated--it helps you look smart. If the quality of the programs and overall reputation have decreased, your school may not look as good.

Naturally, my friends would encourage me to advocate for giving as much money to the institution as you can afford. After all, it's been a down year, donations are down virtually everywhere and the economy has affected more than most of us would have imagined a year ago.

That being said, it's your personal decision to decide how much to give. Even a $5 donation will enable your institution to count you in the participation rate. And as one annual giving officer said to me sometime ago, "Yes, it's important for me to make the annual giving goal set by the school, but the participation rate is more meaningful to me."

If your employment status is less than ideal or if you are currently not working, here's a suggestion: Consider a small donation to the annual fund--and include a note that says that you are unable to give more due to your circumstances. Update your school on your job search. Let them know what you are looking for, and ask them how you can connect with other alums who may be able to help you in your search.  Career Services is a natural place to start, but annual giving staff regularly talk to donors in many different fields--including those who have had highly successful careers. You may find that giving helps you land your next job--especially since alumni of the same school are often pre-disposed to help one another.