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A letter from an alumnus about Fundraising at PU

November 16, 2001

Recently, the American Red Cross announced that all of the more than $500 million contributed to its Liberty Fund for September 11 victims will be used to aid those affected by the terrorist attacks. It abandoned an earlier plan to divert some $200 million of the fund to other Red Cross projects. In so doing, the Red Cross has taken a stand for the principle that charitable organizations have a moral obligation to their contributors to use contributions in support of the stated purpose for which they were solicited - and not for any other purpose, no matter how important to the charity. Charitable organizations and their leaders do not have the right to substitute their priorities for those of the individual contributors.

Sadly, this principle has not yet reached Princeton. Since 1969, Princeton has been soliciting contributions from alumni for "Class Memorial Funds," but it has used about 70 percent of those funds for Annual Giving, which does not create memorials of any kind. These funds have been diverted to Annual Giving without prior notification to the individual contributors and without obtaining their consent.

Let us hope that the Tilghman administration reconsiders the Shapiro administration's ill-advised refusal to remedy this abuse of alumni trust. Doing so will cost Princeton little more than the production and installation of two or three dozen memorial plaques. All that needs to be done is to compensate each affected class (most of the Classes of 1944 through 1976) by providing it with a memorial(s) of a value commensurate with the amount diverted from the Class Memorial Fund. Each class could select its memorial(s) from a list of existing "naming opportunities" – scholarships, fellowships, professorships, classrooms, laboratories, library collections, athletic facilities, etc. These would be true, lasting memorials that would bear the name of the class they are intended to memorialize and would endure long after that class is gone.

The Red Cross has concluded that, in the long run, retaining the trust of its supporters and upholding its reputation for honesty and integrity in fundraising is more important than gaining a short-term financial advantage (even one as substantial as $200 million). Princeton's administrators and fundraisers should take note.

There is too much Annual Taking in Annual Giving

John Stryker '74
Pleasant Mount, Pa.

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