So I just got poked by my good friend, cribbage nemesis, and class agent/secretary Zach who reminded me I hadn’t given to Williams this year yet. To get my attention, he actually joked that I earmark my donation for everything David Kane decries, and furthermore said he’d specified his go towards restoring the Odd Quad to its pre-Neighborhoods glory. Unconventional as it may seem, he got my donation . . . but when I popped over to give2.williams.edu I got to thinking . . .

As I sat there for an inordinate amount of time wondering which digit to put in the ones column, I came up with an idea that I’d really like to see implemented on the giving site: live-updated, humorous, cleverly chosen giving levels based on my intended gift. If you’re into fundraising, web development, or just (self-proclaimed) cool ideas, read on!

You know how there are giving levels that allow you to do certain things? Like, I believe it is $1 million to endow a professorship? (I think I saw this in an AlumNotes or something, but can’t recall) Well, I really like that idea, and I’d like it even more if there were some figures in the same spirit but more in my ballpark . . . or league . . . or universe.

So here’s what I’d like to see, and it would actually be an awesome project for the Alumni Relations office’s intern or any other cool, creative staff member that the college is willing to trust with detailed budget information: calculate giving levels from 1 dollar all the way up to that million. Go soup to nuts. Get creative. So maybe $10.37 plants a tulip bed next to the Geosciences Building. Maybe $15 allows the de-icing of the sidewalk to Thompson Chapel.

Now create a quickly-searchable database—and it should be a huge database—of those figures mapped to the things they enable, and work it into the giving website. Go ahead and check out give2.williams.edu. See how the first thing you type in is the amount of your gift? But the website is seriously bleak-looking, and it doesn’t respond at all to me no matter how much money I throw at it. It’s kinda uninspiring.

But what if, through the live querying that I think Ruby scripts enable, my entering a number caused a list of items around that number to pop up next to the box? So at first it’s the whitespace there now, but then typing in “10.00” caused me to see:

  • $10.23: one crate of frozen hamburgers for Mission Dining Hall
  • $11.34: work-study wages for one student to hand deliver mail to Bronfman Science Center
  • 16.87: seven course Harvest Dinner at Dodd Dining Hall for one student
  • 23.29: rebinding for 50 pages of a single rare book in the Chapin Library Archives

and so on. Do you see the possibilities?

  • The script reminds me of why I love Williams, and it makes me smile. It is clearly playing with me a little, and I think this is just fine for those of us giving around these levels.
  • The website shows people giving at any level what their amount does—none of this vague “every gift is valuable.” I’d find this genuinely interesting, and it is name-dropping things from the Williams I remember.
  • The website creeps up my dollar amount, it tempts me to give more. A good script could set clever increments based on the first number offered, and pick values mostly (all?) above that amount.
  • The script could make each figure a link that, when clicked, fills the giving box with the new figure and re-runs the script
  • A smart script would work from a huge database with a lot of duplication at the same level, so I don’t get the same answers too often, but can’t see too many answers in one sitting.
  • A smarter website would remember my gift last year, and when I logged in show me some cool options around my previous gift, a little higher perhaps.
  • A smart database would also allow assigning categories to the gifts within. Did I choose a level corresponding to planting those flower bulbs by Clark Geosciences? The website might be wise to remember this, and next time I log in suggest options more skewed towards “Geosciences” and “Landscaping” categories.

These are the sort of services paid staff members do for high roller donors, but which is not financially wise to devote time to for the little guys. Web scripts are cheap and work 24/7! I am really in love with this idea, all it takes is a lot of hours with some budget documents, and a little webdev knowledge (that I do not have). David, how about you help me suggest this to the right person? Tell me who, and I’ll send them an email with a link here. I’ll even do what work I can for the project.

Ken or Eric, your thoughts? This should be technically pretty easy, right?

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