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Recruit One Hundred Class Agents

Most newly graduating classes at Williams have 30 or 40 class agents. Older classes often have fewer. This is a mistake. Williams would be much more successful in raising money (both in percentage and dollar terms) and in maintaining connections if we encouraged classes to have 100 agents.

First, it is very hard to recruit class agents after graduation. (Ask any Head Class Agent ever.) If you don’t recruit a 100 agents now, you will always, always struggle to have enough volunteers in later years.

Second, although it may seem like 40 agents provide good coverage for your class, that will change dramatically over the next 5 to 10 years. People scatter. Relationships fade.

Third, the biggest problem that class agents face is not in keeping in contact with the 300 or so members of every class that are the most committed to Williams. They are the easy ones! The problem comes with the 200 Ephs who are not, the ones who have a more standoffish relationship with the College, the ones who had a few close friends, rather than a wide network, the ones who never really clicked with a specific professor or class. Those 200 are the ones that you will have difficulty reaching in the years to come. This happens to every class, which is why alumni giving rates are only at 55%, and falling.

The only way to do better than 55%, the only way to get Person X to give if she is otherwise disinclined to give, is to have someone who knows her very well — someone that she is close friends with, someone she doesn’t want to say No to — do the asking.

The solution is to find many more agents now, while you have a chance, especially agents who are a part of small, isolated, social circles. You know those four women who lived together every year and don’t hang out much with other people? Make one of them a class agent now. You know those 6 male hockey players who loved Williams hockey but didn’t participate much in campus life outside their sport? One of them needs to be a class agent.

The beauty of having 100 class agents is that each agent is only responsible for 5 or so people. So, you have the manpower to connect with all sorts of people who, in other classes, don’t give to the College.

Recruiting 100 agents is hard, but identifying them should be easy. You want one from every entry. You want one from every sports team. You want one from every campus organization. (Of course, many agents will fulfill multiple rolls.) But, most importantly, you want to identify the 200 people in your class who are least connected to Williams on graduation day. You want to recruit a roommate or close friend of these people now.

Many of these recruits will hesitate. They are busy. They don’t know that many people. So sell them! Point out that you need them to just cover these four or five people, just their best buddies. No need for them to reach out to strangers.

Organizing 100 class agents is hard as well. (And, weirdly, the Alumni Office does not recognize what a great idea this is.) You might try a single head class agent (a one year position), 10 associate agents (who would stay for five years, one of those years as head agent), and 100 or so regular class agents. Each of the 10 associate agents might be responsible for 10 regular agents, but each regular agent would only need to worry about 5 or so classmates.

But the exact organization does not matter much. The key is getting 100 class agents now, while you still can. Older classes should do the same, but the best time to start is senior spring.


Teach It Forward III

Let’s spend three days discussing the College’s new fundraising campaign: Teach It Forward: The Campaign for Williams. The main webpage is here. Today is Day 3.

“We tend to think primarily of two kinds of institutions of higher learning: large research universities and small liberal arts colleges. In this campaign, we will secure Williams’ distinctive place in higher education as combining the best of both these worlds,” Falk said. “At Williams, we provide the opportunities and the rigor of a research university, in a liberal arts context and on a scale that allows for not only small classes, but also close collaboration with faculty and the mentorship and support of an entire community.”

This is either harmless pablum or a subtle sign that Adam Falk wishes he were president at a place like Johns Hopkins.

It is absurd to believe that Williams can possibly provide the “best” of what research universities do, which is, unsurprisingly, “research.” In order to do the best possible research, you need two things:

1) Professors who are selected, almost solely, on their ability to do research, and the desire to make such research the focal point of their professional lives.

2) Graduate students to assist in that research.

Williams will never have those two things, nor should it.

Now, of course, many Williams professors do research and much of that research is of high quality. But it is nowhere near as good as the research done at places like Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford (or even Hopkins). Is anyone surprised by that? Any Williams professor who does research at the highest level is offered a job by a fancy research university and then vast majority accept that job offer.

And that is OK! Williams is a liberal arts college, not a research university. Its only focus should be on the quality of the undergraduate experience, part of which will involve research with professors. But we don’t need to pretend that our professors are as good at doing research as university professors. Who cares?! What we want is for the undergraduate research experience at Williams to be as good as the undergraduate research experience at H/Y/P/S. On a lot of dimensions, this is already true and/or is a worthy goal. But that is not the same thing as “combining the best” of “large research universities” with all the wonderfulness that is Williams today.

Is Falk just engaging in fundraising puffery? I hope so. But note that many faculty members have discussed with me Falk’s focus on the faculty over the last few years, his often expressed desire to raise tenure standards (especially when it comes to research output), to make the Williams faculty more like the Hopkins faculty. Is he hinting at that here? Perhaps. But most of my sources also claim that Falk has been singularly unsuccessful in these efforts, that departments — always jealous of their own prerogatives — have pushed back and only hired/promoted the same candidates as they always have.

Informed commentary welcome!


Teach It Forward II

Let’s spend three days discussing the College’s new fundraising campaign: Teach It Forward: The Campaign for Williams. The main webpage is here. Today is Day 2.

Williams will seek $150 million in endowment support for financial aid in the campaign—to ensure affordability for low- and middle-income students, as well for international students, and therein sustain the socioeconomic diversity of the student body. Financial aid is the campaign’s single largest fundraising priority.

1) This is good to see, but I have been burned before in (naively?) believing that international enrollment is a high priority for Falk/Williams. The single biggest decision that Williams faces is: How many international students to enroll? I think that, immediately, Williams should go to 15% and then quickly to 20%, with a probably long-term goal of 50%.

2) Just what does it mean to raise $150 million for financial aid? Is there really some financial aid lock-box which contains dollars that can only be used for financial aid? I have my doubts. Money is fungible. And the College has a history of using money given for financial aid (at least for international students) for other purposes. I would be happier to see a more concrete pledge: Williams will offer financial aid packages at least as generous as those offered by Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford. See this recent comment:

[T]he difference between aid provided by Williams and its top liberal arts college peers and that provided by the top universities is hard to overcome.

My child is a high school senior and realistic applicant to the top schools. Based on our income, Williams expects we can contribute roughly $38,000 toward college annually. We cannot. Harvard and Yale expect us to contribute slightly less than $20,000 per year – a stretch, but one we can make. I wish the difference in cost between Williams and Yale weren’t roughly $80,000 over the course of an undergraduate degree.

Williams should match the financial aid offered to any admitted student who is also admitted by Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford. High school seniors might very well choose HYPS over Williams, but they shouldn’t do so because of financial aid.


Teach It Forward I

Let’s spend three days discussing the College’s new fundraising campaign: Teach It Forward: The Campaign for Williams. The main webpage is here. Today is Day 1.

1) Thanks to Professor Manigault-Bryant for the link to the official announcement and for the heads up about the Teach It Forward slogan. I love it! Coming up with a good slogan is hard, so kudos to Williams for inventing such a great one. Teaching is the single Williams activity that connects us all. By the way, future historians will want to know who came up with the slogan. Who was it? Let us praise this Eph!

2) Summary paragraph:

In a campus-wide celebration uniting students, faculty, staff, alumni, and parents, Williams College tonight officially kicked off a multiyear campaign aimed at raising $650 million and engaging the entire Williams community in building the future of the college.

Teach It Forward: The Campaign for Williams is believed to be the most ambitious campaign in the college’s 222-year history and the most ambitious campaign in the history of liberal arts colleges. Following a three-year quiet phase of planning and fundraising, the college has secured $374 million in commitments toward its overall goal, and fully 66 percent of alumni have already engaged in some aspect of the campaign, whether through philanthropic support, volunteerism, or participation in campus or regional alumni events.

Kudos to EphAlum for almost guessing the campaign target of $650 million. Can anyone tell us about recent campaigns at places like Amherst, Swarthmore and Pomona? I am glad that Williams is trying to raise (and likely to succeed in raising) so much, but my sense is that this is not much more than other similar campaigns.

Why the “believed to be” in the opening sentence? This is, obviously, the most ambitious campaign in Williams history, assuming you define “ambition” as “dollars.”

The 66% figure is a bit of a scam. About 60% of alums give in a given year and, over a three year period (because all givers do not give every year) , the number is around 66%. But that figure would be similar in any three year period, regardless of the existence of the campaign.


Dance, Monkeys, Dance!


EphBlog is here to help! Today is the kick off to the Williams Capital Campaign. Elite colleges run capital campaigns — multi-year attempts to raise substantial amounts of money — every decade or so. The typical cycle begins with a new president who spends a few years getting to know the campus, a few years raising money, and then a few years recovering. The last Williams campaign, which started in 2003, targeted $400 million but eventually raised more than $500 million. Some questions:

1) Will this campaign have a catchy slogan or theme? Last time the name was simply the “Williams Campaign,” although there might also have been some “Climb High” branding. I suspect something similarly anodyne this time round. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

2) What will the target amount be? At the low end, I have heard $600 million, which would be 50% more than last time. At the high end, a knowledgeable alum (with no inside info) was certain it would be $1 billion, both because this was an eye-catching target and because it was more than any other liberal arts college, which would be appropriate for an institution of Williams stature. My guess is $1 billion.

3) The Campaign takes place in two stages. The first, going on for the last few years, is the “quiet” phase, during which major gifts are solicited from mega-wealthy donors. At least 1/2, and up to 2/3, of the total money has already been raised. Tonight marks the kick-off of the “public” phase.

4) There is a large fat tail in fundraising, at Williams and elsewhere. Although the College will try to get every alumni (and parent!) to give, the vast majority of the money will be raised by the 500 or so biggest donors, with a disproportionate share coming from the top 5 or 10.


Isn’t it unusual to engage students so deeply in the capital campaign? I certainly don’t recall this from the distant past, nor from the last go-around a decade ago. Typically (and appropriately) the students have no idea what the College’s fundraising machinery is doing. And that is OK!

The OP here, however, is quite clueless. He is surrounded by educational and facility luxuries of every kind. Does he think stuff comes from heaven? Is he so naive as to believe that, even if he is a full pay student, his tuition dollars cover anywhere near the cost of what he consumes? Perhaps. Fortunately, EphBlog is here to educate him! Elite liberal arts colleges cost big money. Unless you want to double tuition, you need to raise lots of money from rich alumni. So, dance, you ungrateful little monkey! Dance!


That is some dance stage! Comments:

1) Thanks to Professor Manigault-Bryant and the other campus Ephs who tweet! Always fun to see/read pictures/descriptions of campus events.

2) There has never (?) been anything like this at the start of a Williams campaign. Last time, I think that the kick-off event was a dinner, for major donors and a few selected students/faculty, at Mount Hope. Good idea? I don’t know. At least there shouldn’t be any rain . . .

3) Looks like #WilliamsCampaign is the official hashtag.


Williams Is An Idea

The latest Williams capital campaign kicks off next month. Here is the invitation to the (opening?) event in NYC. Amusingly (?) this e-mail was sent to all (?) alumni even though it was meant for just New York alumni, and maybe just the rich ones.

In any event, almost every section of this display is worth of comment/question. Let’s start with: What is your prediction for the target amount of money to raise? I guess $750 million.



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