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How Princeton University gets 63% of its alumni to become donors.

Princeton is the best fundraising university in the world. Roughly 63% of all of their alumni give to their annual giving fund. The average in the USA is just 13%.

Fundraising guru, Tom Ahern, asked the fundraisers at Princeton, “What’s your magic? What are you guys doing that works so well?”

They told him, “We start right at the beginning. Every freshman, every incoming class is introduced to an idea that we invented in the 1930’s. We call it the ‘Given University.’

“We tell each class of freshman: ‘Look around you, 60% of you in this room are here thanks to scholarships given by people who are mostly philanthropic alums.’

‘Look around this beautiful campus and these amazing facilities. It’s all philanthropy. The teachers you're going to encounter, the best of the best, are here because of philanthropy.’”

How can your mosdos Torah apply the Princeton magic in your fundraising?

The answer is to look to share the idea that “philanthropy is key” with your students at each and every significant milestone.

Now, you may feel some resistance to this idea. You may fear mixing in fundraising too early in your student relationships.

So let's clarify what we are trying to do here.

You are NOT asking them for money. What you ARE doing is shifting the mindset of your students. You want them to understand from the moment they walk in the door that the generosity of others is what propels your organizational services forward, services that THEY are benefitting from.

The care that your students receive is because of philanthropy and the foresight of people who came before them and want to give back.

If you're bringing in a new class into your yeshiva, if you're a kiruv organization running an Israel trip, if you learn with young professionals, if you spend time on campus with students, or if you give a shiur at your Torah center, you can say at a significant moment something like...

“It’s only through the generosity of the participants who came before you, who were inspired by what we do and cared enough to ‘pay it forward’ that you guys could be here today.”


‘It’s only through the generosity of philanthropists who value Jewish education, who were inspired by what we do and cared enough to invest in us, that you guys could be here today.”

The key is to mention that ‘you’ (the participants) are here ‘because’ of the generosity of others ‘like you’ who value what they gained.

And you should repeat it at each milestone in your students’ relationship with you and your organization.

When you want to use this idea to ask for a donation, in a one-on-one solicitation, you could say,

“Because of the generosity of those who came on this trip in the past...” or

“Because of those who saw the value of investing in amazing people such as yourself, it has been possible for you to take part in this trip.

“Would you consider paying it forward and invest in a student to come on this winter's trip who would otherwise not have been able to come?”

When and how will you share this idea with your students or participants?

B’Hatzlacha Raba Raba,


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