More Money for CMC: The New Crown Challenge

crownchallengeLast Friday, CMC’s Office of Annual Giving launched the new Crown Challenge. Crown will now recognize individual donors’ gifts with his own.

Previously, the Crown Challenge was designed to increase Crown's gift incrementally as the number of gifts (i.e., number of alums donating) increased.

The original Crown Challenge began last year when Steve Crown, general partner at investment firm Henry Crown & Co., pledged to give up to four million dollars over the course of the next five years. Crown challenged the group by promising to annually give $50,000 if alumni participation reached 44 percent and up to $800,000 if participation reached 50 percent. Crown decided to change the structure of the challenge, making it more intuitive to the needs of the College and our alumni.

In the new model of the Crown Challenge, Steve Crown honors each alumni gift with a gift of his own at its giving level. A gift up to $149 will automatically trigger a $50 gift from Crown. If alums commit to contributing for all four years of the challenge, Steve Crown will make an additional gift at the amount of the first gift. For instance, if you commit to give at the James Madison Society level ($300-$749) annually for the next four years, in addition to the matching $300 gift, Steve Crown will donate an additional $300.In addition to this, if you give more than once the next four years, Crown's gift will increase with each year you give.

Matching gift campaigns are common at academic institutions, but few are as generous with their matching policies. For example, Stanford's Atwell Match matches 50 cents per dollar and matching gifts are capped at $1000. Steve Crown, on the other hand, will acknowledge a Res Publica Society gift with an equal $1,500 gift and his gift will increase accordingly if another gift is made in the subsequent four years.

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The Crown Challenge is open to all alumni and also to graduating seniors pledging to give the four years following graduation. This means a senior class gift of $50 will actually be a $150 gift to the College.

The changes in the Crown Challenge were made to address some of the issues of CMC Annual Giving: getting alums to give all they can give and to give consistently.  Though gifts of participation ("Even if you can only give a small amount, it's important that everyone gives back.") are important for school rankings, a donation of $5 does very little in terms of helping students.

The Office of Annual Giving has also faced issues with getting alumni to donate consistently. While our peer institutions like Williams College and Amherst College have alumni who recognize the importance of their gifts, CMC alums have less understanding of the great need for donations. If we took away the top twenty donors, the Fund for CMC would be cut by 50 percent. Essentially, our top donors make CMC look like we’re doing better than we actually are. Of course, the financial crisis was played a part in shifting the focus—Crown recognized that it was difficult for people to see the impact of their gift in the original plan and hope the new one would motivate more people.

Gifts made to the Annual Giving Office will help meet the College's goals for the Campaign for Claremont McKenna, the largest capital campaign ever undertaken by a liberal arts college. However, it is important to note that the gifts to the Fund for CMC affects each one us right away. Patrick Roche, Director of Annual Giving Programs explained “The gifts we collect are current use gifts. They go towards things that effect students right now. The power of a current use gift is that it is like a gift to the endowment but 20 times bigger. We only use 5 percent of the endowment each year meaning we can only use $5 of an endowment gift of $100. A gift of $100 to the Annual Fund will be used fully.”

The Alumni Fund covers the cost of each student outside of tuition (full tuition covers approximately half of a student’s CMC education), going towards scholarships, athletics, research institutes, and other activities and events to enhance student life. Considering the fact that our endowment lost roughly 27 percent of its value between July 1 and December 31, 2008, gifts to the Fund for CMC are more important than ever oday.