University News

Students thank Annual Fund contributors

The Brown Annual Fund holds gratitude events twice a year to help maintain donor support

By
Staff Writer
Friday, November 15, 2013

The Brown Annual Fund hosted a Gratitude Night last Tuesday, inviting students to thank Annual Fund donors through letters or film cameos.

An intermittent stream of students flowed into a side dining room in the Sharpe Refectory, where a buffet of class T-shirts and photos was laid out alongside a table of letters and candy. Students could express their appreciation on camera at a makeshift film setup, reminiscent of a photo booth, just beyond the table.

The Annual Fund contributes to “financial aid, UTRAs, first-year seminars and state-of the-art library and technology resources,” according to its website, and the group thanks donors through biannual events that have in the past been called “Pay it Forward Day” or “Gratitude Day.”

Patricia Watson, the University’s vice president for advancement, called the night a success. Organizers had hoped the night would yield around 175 letters, but turnout surpassed expectations. Over the course of the event, which ran from 5 to 7 p.m., 198 notes were collected and over 30 students provided video footage. One student wrote five letters, Watson said.

“The event was also a success in that it provided an educational opportunity to our students,” Watson said. “Students learned about the Brown Annual Fund and gained a better understanding of how Annual Fund donors … support the Brown experience.”

Events like Gratitude Night have seen increasing student participation in recent years, Watson said.

“I just think it’s great that people are staying loyal to their school,” said Emily Yeh ’17, who wrote a letter. “They’re giving to the generation after them.”

Many students who attended Gratitude Night appeared attracted to the event as a way to give thanks for financial aid, Watson said. “They appreciate having the opportunity to say ‘thank you’ to donors who are helping them receive a Brown education,” Watson said.

But some students expressed doubts about whether Gratitude Night was the best way to offer appreciation.

“In-person thanks can be more meaningful,” said Grant Gustafson ’17. “There are more ways to convey gratitude than in a letter.”

Letters were not the only messages of gratitude sent to alums. A video filmed that night will be “shared broadly with the Brown community,” Watson said. The video is expected to reach parents, students and faculty members, as well as benefactors.

Donors are most likely to give again when they know that their gifts are appreciated, according to Annual Fund materials. Last year’s video alone led to a surge in online donations — an outcome Annual Fund leaders hope to repeat this fall.

“The heartfelt and sincere notes and video messages that our students offer convey to Brown Annual Fund donors that they have made an impact at the University,” Watson said.

One Comment

  1. johnlonergan says:

    Stop using alums as ATM machines. We’re willing to pay, and pay a lot, for lifetime education and dialog. Until that happens, Brown’s endowment will remain puny as compared to Stanford, Harvard and Yale.

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