From a March 31, 2000 Chronicle of Higher Education story titled, “In Era of Megagifts, Colleges Try to Keep Nurturing (and Soliciting) Donors of Lesser Means.”

Southern California’s College of Letters, Arts, and Sciences has taken another approach. Realizing the need to more effectively honor donors who make gifts of $ 50,000 to several million dollars, officials began a lunch series a few years ago. In what is essentially a group hug, donors and students express what the donations mean to them. “There is no bigger tearjerker,” says Morton O. Schapiro, dean of the college.

Such events work because “the primary motivation in giving is emotion, and not rational thought,” says Mr. Carter, the fund-raising consultant. “The more emotion involved in the transaction, the better.”

Fund raisers at Southern California now “concentrate much more now on the smaller gifts than we did before,” Mr. Schapiro says. “When you get those megagifts, you have to really make sure you do everything possible to signal to people that smaller gifts do very much matter.”

Soliciting low-end gifts is an expensive business — more so than for high-end gifts, which cost about eight or nine cents per dollar raised, Mr. Schapiro estimates. By comparison, gifts to the annual fund cost about 20 cents per dollar, he says. But if low-end donors feel disenfranchised, there is more at stake than $50 here or $1,000 there, say fund-raising specialists: Donors can graduate from little gifts to big ones.

Southern California’s fund raisers relish the story of Joseph Pertusati, who every year gave $ 100 to the university’s annual fund. No one paid much attention until the year he increased his contribution to $ 100,000. The development office immediately called on Mr. Pertusati, who ultimately left the university a bequest of property with an estimated value of $ 10-million.

I wonder how much Williams spends on different categories of fund raising, both in total and in terms of cents per dollar raised.

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