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25 for 25 Challenge helps keep YDS donor base robust

Donations to the 2008-09 YDS Annual Fund surged during the final weeks of the 25 for 25 Participation Challenge, but not quite enough to reach the goal of 2,500 alumni donors.   However, alumni members of the YDS Advisory Board who had pledged dollar-for-dollar matches up to a total of $25,000 acknowledged the strength of the Annual Fund campaign, generously offering to fulfill their pledges even though the number of contributors fell just short of the goal.

Scott Pidcock ’82 M.A.R. in philosophical theology and one of the Challenge Grant sponsors, said, “Yale Divinity School continues to distinguish itself as an extraordinary institution providing a key voice in the interfaith dialogue so essential on the world stage today.

Bookstore photo“Blessed with gifted leadership, the Divinity School needs to be able to turn to its base of support—particularly in challenging times—so as to continue the essential role it has served across its distinguished history. It is a privilege to play a modest part in advancing this tradition.”   

Director of Alumni Relations Carmen Germino ’07 M.Div., who spearheaded the Annual Fund effort, said the Challenge “was instrumental in keeping our donor base robust through this rocky year.

“I’m incredibly grateful to all who participated and offered what they could to maintain financial support for our students.”

All donations to the Annual Fund go directly toward student aid.  The 2008-09 campaign was particularly difficult given the dire nature of the national economy.

To encourage participation in the Challenge Grant, Germino and YDS Student Book Supply Manager Micah Luce teamed up to arrange a contest in which a donation of any amount made the donor eligible for a special drawing for a set of six books and one DVD from the Book Supply.  In a random July 24 drawing from a computer-generated list of donor alumni, Luce and Dean Harold Attridge picked as the winner Bernice Cosey-Pulley ’55 B.D. of New Rochelle, NY.  Cosey-Pulley, an activist in social and civil rights causes, is one of the first African American women to graduate from YDS.  In 2006, the national YWCA honored her for contributions in the field of racial justice.

As of July 24, approximately 2,300 alumni, or roughly 35 percent, had contributed to the 2008-09 Annual Fund, which had a goal of 2,500 donors.  In terms of dollar amounts, approximately 93 percent of the $410,000 goal was reached.  Figures are approximate because adjustments were still being made on July 24.

According to Director of External Relations John Lindner, over 400 donors made contributions in the final six weeks of the fiscal year, spurred by some 1,000 calls, many made by staff or volunteers during a phonathon focused on alumni who had not yet contributed.

“Though we fell slightly short of our goal, the spirit of the challenge was certainly met, and it was an enormous lift to the effort,” Lindner said in a July 22 email message thanking Challenge Grant sponsors for their support.

“In a very difficult year, the Challenge Grant was a key element in motivating donors to participate in the Annual Fund,” wrote Lindner.  “Though we fell just short of the mark, the effort this year resulted in a significant reconnection with alums through phone calls and notes.

“Clearly a number of our alumni are struggling as a result of the economic downturn, especially retirees.  As we made the calls, in a number of cases we ended up offering words of support to those who have lost jobs or their retirement savings.  The calls proved to be an important opportunity to reconnect, and many alums were able to go the extra mile and offer support.”

Constance Royster, director of development and one of the phonathon participants, recalled,  “Many people I spoke with were definitely feeling they could not spare anything extra this year. I spoke with one alum from the 60s who in the past had given $250 on a consistent basis, but we hadn’t heard from her yet this year. She told me she and her husband had to cut way back this year because they had lost so much value in their mutual funds and they were scared. We talked some about how the economy had impacted her and those around her. When I reminded her that the 25 for 25 Challenge was not focused on the giving amount but rather on donors, she immediately said, ‘Oh, I love YDS so much. I want to help. I will write a check for $25.’”

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