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Maize and Blue Daze highlights impact of Annual Fund

From April 1 to April 7, Carleton put on its Maize and Blue Daze fundraising challenge for Carleton’s Annual Fund. The college aimed to garner donations from 1,866 alumni in honor of the year of the college’s founding. The college received more than $1.4 million from 1,991 donors, with $200,000 of matching funds coming from an anonymous alumni donor. The $1.4 million raised during Maize and Blue Daze represents about 14% of the overall $10.2 million goal for the Annual Fund in the 2022 fiscal year. 

The Maize and Blue Daze week included a myriad of programs and activities meant to raise money to support the Annual Fund. Students could participate by answering trivia questions about the Annual Fund and Carleton’s history, talking on the phone to alumni donors and writing postcards to alumni. Students wrote more than 1,000 postcards and 175 students received prizes. 

“This is the first year we’ve tried a spring fundraiser like this in recent history,” said Abigail Tupa, the Associate Director of Messaging and Project Management for the Annual Fund. “We’ve included an on-campus and student component which was about educating students on the history of Carleton and the importance of the Annual Fund.” 

The Annual Fund is an amalgamation of the Alumni Annual Fund, the Parents Fund and the Carleton Friends Fund, with each fund representing donations from different college stakeholders. Donations to the Annual Fund are different from other donations because the funds are flexible and can be used immediately. In 2021, the Annual Fund made up 6.5% of the college’s $502 million operating budget. 

“The Annual Fund allows us to be nimble with spending in ways that the endowment isn’t meant to,” wrote the Alumni Annual Fund Board Chair Austin Lau ’05. “Gifts to the endowment might be of a bigger magnitude, but the flexibility of Annual Fund gifts is really important.” 

Gifts to the Annual Fund can have seven different designations at the donor’s discretion: Financial Aid, Learning and Teaching, Life and Career, Inclusion Diversity and Equity (IDE), the Multicultural Alumni Network Fellowship Program (MCAN) and the Carleton Athletic Initiative. Gifts can also be left unrestricted. 

This was the first year the IDE designation was available, with gifts going towards anti-racist and anti-bias training, a 5th-year position in the Africana Studies department and an external IDE consultant. 

A vast majority of donations, 71%, were left undesignated. The second most popular designation was financial aid, which was 13% of all donations. 

While most institutions of higher education have Annual Funds, Carleton’s Alumni Annual Fund (which comprises more than 90% of donations to the Annual Fund itself) is owned by alumni. 

“Carleton has a volunteer-driven Alumni Annual Fund,” said Tupa. This means a lot of the efforts and actions are actually done by AAF volunteers instead of Carleton’s in-house staff. Carleton is super unique in that every alumni class year has a team of volunteers that contacts their fellow classmates and encourages them to contribute to the Annual Fund.” 

Alumni volunteers from each class year call, text, email and write letters to their former classmates asking them to donate to the college. 

“Alumni are hearing from fellow alumni,” said Tupa. “We attribute our success, and the fact that we’re one of the strongest annual fund programs in the country, to that volunteer-driven component.”

The actions of these alumni reap rewards for the college, as upwards of 40% of all Carleton alumni will donate to the college in any given year. Carleton boasts a top five ranking for donor participation according to the U.S. News and World Report. 

The success of the Annual Fund directly touches students’ lives: some examples include  supplying varsity and intramural sports equipment, funding unpaid internship opportunities for multicultural students and providing extra financial aid to students whose financial circumstances change unexpectedly. 

“The Annual Fund provides unrestricted funds to the college,” concluded Tupa. “Funds raised go to Carleton’s most pressing needs, which ultimately are students. Unlike grant funding, our money touches every area of campus.”

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