On the one hand, now is a great time for large gifts and restricted support for raising money in higher education. On the other hand, there is a downward trend in general support and broad-based alumni giving participation—and it hasn’t hit bottom yet. Over the past decade or so, meteoric growth in both the number of nonprofits competing for philanthropic dollars and the number of degrees conferred has conspired to make this trend feel insurmountable. It really is the perfect storm.
To reverse it, development leaders have tried nearly everything. They have pitted graduating classes against each other in virtual alumni participation cage matches. They have stuffed a purple pig with loose change. Some colleges and universities have found limited success through these tactics, but their overall efforts haven’t been sustainable. Nearly all have met the same fate as Sisyphus, the Greek king eternally doomed to roll a stone up a hill without ever quite reaching the top.