It’s been 50 years since the University formally created an annual giving program.
“I’ll tell you the biggest difference between now and then,” says Paul Lindsay, a 1956 graduate and associate vice president for university relations. “Back in 1952, when the annual fund started, you could actually pay your own way through college. We had guys who would brag, ‘I paid my own way.’ You can’t do that today. In 1952 the cost of attending Xavier was $10 a credit hour. If you took 16 hours, threw in books and fees, it would cost you $350 a year. That was a lot of money back then, but that was something you could handle. You could get a job over the summer at $1 an hour. That would be $40 a week for 12 weeks. By the end of the summer you’d have $480. Well, you wouldn’t have that much because you’d blow some of it. But you had enough to pay for school. Today, there’s no way a student can earn $25,000 over the summer.”
Helping underwrite the cost of a Xavier education is the driving force behind today’s annual fund. The University charges undergraduate students $25,120 for tuition, room and board.
The typical student’s family can afford about $5,300 less than that. Who makes up much of the difference? Donors to the annual fund.
“It’s a critical support for the University,” says Richard Hirté, vice president for financial administration. “There needs to be more. It’s an essential element of the budget.”
The groundwork for the annual fund of today was laid by Jack Moser, who was hired in 1952 to organize and run the “annual alumni fund.” Peer solicitation was considered the best way to raise funds, so on a designated Sunday each spring, the University asked volunteer alumni to knock on the doors of fellow alumni.
“We’d divide the city into neighborhoods,” says Lindsay. “You’d get a stack of names and you’d go through it and say, ‘I’ll take him. I don’t know him. I used to date his daughter and he hates me, so someone else better take him.’ Then you would go door to door.”
It wasn’t until 1973 that the University began drifting away from the door-to-door visits and testing phone solicitations.
“It sort of happened before that,” says Lindsay, “because the alumni association now had out-of-town chapters, and we called the people in Chicago and asked them to raise money door to door. They’d say, ‘Are you nuts. Do you know how big Chicago is? We’ll phone them.’ ”
After a six-week trial period, it was clear that raising money over the phone was not only more efficient, but more effective. Soon after, phoning became the preferred method of solicitation.
In the 1970s, special recognition societies began for those who gave at certain levels each year. The first was the Chimes Club for those who gave $100 or more. The need to establish higher giving clubs was recognized—especially for those who gave $1,000 or more a year—so two new societies were created: the Elet Society for those who gave $500 to $999 and The 1831 Society for $1,000-plus donors. Today, five levels exist.
This year’s annual fund goal for unrestricted dollars—money the University can apply to its most pressing needs—is $3.4 million. The total annual giving goal, which includes restricted and unrestricted gifts, is $5 million. That’s a long way from 1953, when Xavier raised about $24,000.
But the needs are greater than ever. The University’s budget is more than $100 million annually, but that’s what it costs to run a first-class institution.
“Xavier has always relied on the generosity of alumni,” says Dan Cloran, current director for the annual fund, “and today is no different from 1952. Xavier can’t hope to continue providing a top-notch education without the support of alumni, family and friends.”