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YDS announces “25 for 25” Participation Challenge to boost Annual Fund

Yale Divinity School has launched the “25 for 25” Participation Challenge to jumpstart the school’s Annual Fund campaign, which has suffered, like the University as a whole, as a result of the nation’s flagging economy.

Under the challenge, a group of about one dozen members of the YDS Board of Advisors will make a collective contribution of $25,000 to the fund if 2,500 alumni make donations to the Fund by the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2009.  The challenge comes on the heels of an appeal made by Dean Harold Attridge during a conference call with alumni leaders on Feb. 19.

Last year at approximately this time, the YDS Annual Fund stood at about $336,000.  By comparison, contributions for 2008-09 totaled approximately $280,000 as of March 26, representing 68 percent of the $410,000 goal.   In terms of numbers of donors, 1,772 have given to the Annual Fund this fiscal year, 28 percent of the alumni population.  Another 728 donors would be needed to reach the goal of 2,500.

John Lindner, director of external relations at YDS, said, “Though the size of annual gifts is down, YDS alums are a very loyal community and share a commitment to supporting our students.  I am confident that the challenge will help to highlight the importance of every gift and that together we will make the goal by year’s end.”

Every dollar contributed to the YDS Annual Fund goes directly to student financial aid, which is the Divinity School’s top fundraising priority.  Scholarship aid in 2008-09 is at $4.9 million, and Dean Harold Attridge is aiming at increasing the total to $5.1 million in 2009-10.

The “25 for 25” challenge does not specify a minimum dollar amount in order to count toward the challenge.  A challenge brochure that is now in production notes, “The amount you give is up to you.  It’s your participation that counts.”

“Through these days of economic uncertainty, we must remain committed to supporting students who will become the future leaders of the church and the academy,” the brochure urges.

Director of Alumni Relations Carmen Germino ’07 M.Div., who oversees the Annual Fund, observed that graduates of YDS typically work in areas where salaries tend to be modest—churches, nonprofits, or educational institutions, for example.  She said many alumni, both those who are working and those who are retired, are struggling financially in the current economy.

“The 2008-09 Annual Fund numbers to date reflect those struggles,” said Germino.  “We are very sensitive to the hardships our alums have experienced this year.  Still, we also remain committed to maintaining ample need-based financial aid for our students.  They are our future preachers and teachers, and we cannot let our support for them falter.

“For this reason, we are really encouraging alumni participation, even if the dollar amounts of gifts might be smaller this year.”

Dean Attridge has identified student financial aid and faculty retention and recruitment as areas to be protected despite the dismal economy.  Replacement of the Canner Street student apartments, though, has been put on hold.  And YDS, along with the rest of the University, is implementing fiscal belt-tightening of 7.5 percent cuts in non-faculty labor costs and a similar reduction in administrative outlays.

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