When Not Giving Hurts

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October 27, 2010; Source: New York Times | In an effort to get more students to give to college and university fundraising efforts, at least two schools created what might be called “naughty or nice” lists, which in retrospect has proven not such a charitable thing to do. According to the New York Times, students at Dartmouth College and Cornell University who didn’t give to recent class gifts were either publicly humiliated or pressured by peers to make donations.

A Dartmouth student who hadn’t made a contribution for the senior gift was “excoriated in the student newspaper and on The Little Green Blog, a student Web site, which also ran her picture.” Laura A. DeLorenzo later left a comment on the blog stating her decision not to give was personal, and should have been left at that. “My decision not to donate to Dartmouth reflects my personal conclusion that the negative aspects of Dartmouth outweigh the positive, and nothing more. Where other people choose to donate their money is their decision and I fully respect their right to make it.”

At Cornell, a former student Erica Weitzner received phone calls from sorority sisters who knew she hadn’t contributed to the senior gift. She said getting that kind of pressure made her feel “like it’s no longer really a donation” she was being asked to make “but more like tuition.”

A Dartmouth official has since admitted that publishing DeLorenzo’s name was inappropriate. Robert F. Sharpe Jr., a fundraising consultant, said those kinds of pressure or humiliation tactics can backfire. Sharpe maintains that when “asking becomes demanding, then giving can approach taking.”—Bruce Trachtenberg