What's All This about Being Able to Choose?

The Oberlin College Annual Fund has been renamed and restructured to allow alumni and friends to choose which aspect of the Oberlin experience their philanthropy supports.

The Oberlin Fund, as the annual fund is now called, offers donors four categories to which they can direct their annual gifts--scholarship support, student life, teaching and learning, or unrestricted support. Gifts to the fund will be used in the fiscal year in which they are received.

"Through their gifts, alumni can do two things: support the strategic goals of the college and conservatory and tell us what they think of our strategic goals," says Oberlin Fund director Kathy Mead.

Many alumni prefer to direct their gifts for specific uses, she says. Of the $3.4 million contributed to the Annual Fund by individuals during the 1994-95 fiscal year, $730,000 was for specific uses.

"Oberlin alumni are very active and highly self-directed people. They like to have a say in how the affairs of the college and conservatory are managed," says Mead. "Talking only about unrestricted giving, which we've been doing for the last several years, was counterproductive. It seemed to fly in the face of the character of the place."

The changes are the culmination of a year of research as well as of conversations and focus groups with alumni throughout the country, says Mead. With this fiscal year--which began July 1, 1996, and continues to June 30, 1997--donors who choose the scholarship support category will be contributing their gifts to current-use funds that augment financial-aid packages. President Nancy S. Dye has spearheaded an effort to increase the amount set aside for financial aid, and the 1996-97 financial-aid budget has been increased by 22.15 percent over last year's. The Oberlin Fund's goal is to contribute $324,000 in current-use gifts to the aid budget.

Support of the student-life category, which encompasses a variety of extracurricular activities such as student publications, community-service projects, co-ops, and athletics, directly affects students' Oberlin experience. The teaching and learning category supports the research and special projects of Oberlin educators and their brightest students. And unrestricted support can include anything in the first three categories, as well as building repairs, office supplies, and funding for student projects. For instance, the president's and deans' discretionary funds, which receive unrestricted gifts, provide the flexibility Oberlin needs to respond to exigencies and opportunities as they arise, such as the black-student retention study undertaken this spring by students, faculty, and staff.

Oberlin's alumni and friends can rest assured that their gifts will be used as they've requested. The director of stewardship and the controller are developing procedures for tracking and reporting gifts to all four categories.

"We are very excited about the potential of The Oberlin Fund," says Young P. Dawkins, vice president for development, alumni affairs and communications. "Oberlin alums and friends have been extremely helpful throughout the entire reorganization process, and we are confident that the new fund will even further engage the Oberlin community in their ongoing support for the college and conservatory."

A brochure and letter containing more information about The Oberlin Fund were mailed to alumni and friends of Oberlin in late August.

--Michael Kaye

Return to Around Tappan Square

Return to the OAM Summer 1996 Table of Contents