Monthly Archives: July 2011

Friday 22nd July – please support your university today!

It’s Friday 22nd July and it’s a red letter day for universities. But you probably won’t have heard much about it in the papers. On July 31st, the Government’s Matched Funding Scheme for Universities comes to an end. It’s a scheme designed to encourage university graduates, like me (and perhaps you), to make charitable gifts to our alma maters. The Government will match every gift given by at least one third, including the Gift Aid the university reclaims on it. The total pot available from the Government is £200 million, but it requires universities to raise the donations to unlock it.

So you probably have two questions now – why’s today the red letter day, and why should I, of all people, give a gift to my university?

I’ll answer the easy one first. Today’s the red letter day because to claim the matched funding they’re entitled to – up to £2.75 million in some cases – universities have to show the Government that the donations have reached their bank accounts by July 31st. Given the amount of time it takes for cheques to clear and online gifts to be transferred, today is the last day you can make a donation, online or by post, to your old university and be sure of them receiving their share of the Government match for it.

So that’s the easy one answered. Now for your second question – why should you give a gift to your old university? I’ll try to give you a couple of reasons.

  1. Your university is a charity. It does work that’s been recognised to have a charitable purpose since the 17th century – the advancement of knowledge and learning. Universities have always relied on charitable donations to fund the very core of their work. And many, many of the UK’s best-known charities rely on the work of universities to carry out their own work.
  2. You’ll know exactly how your money has been spent. Universities, believe it or not, are some of the best charities in the country at telling you how they’ve used your donations. There’s a myth that it all ‘goes into the Vice-Chancellor’s pocket’ or into admin, and that’s just not true. Depending on how your university uses its donations, your gift could be funding world-changing research, or enabling students from families with no history of university attendance to take their first steps towards a world of knowledge, skills and service to society.
  3. Since the Second World War, we’ve had a proud tradition in this country of making access to higher education, and all the good that it can achieve, dependent purely on ability to learn and not ability to pay. Making a gift to your University’s ‘Annual Fund’ is one of the very best ways that you can help ensure that tradition is still something we can be proud of years into the future.
  4. The last one is really simple. Take a look at what you’re doing now in your career, or the way you think about the world around you, or the friends that mean the most to you in your life. How much of that might you have had if you hadn’t been to university and had the life-changing experience it offers you? I’d say it was a pearl beyond all price.

So today, why not recognise this, in however large or small a way you choose, with a donation to your university? Last year 186,000 graduates made gifts to their old institutions. That may sound like a lot, but it’s only 2 people for every 100 of us who’ve ever graduated from these great institutions of ours. Surely we value them more than that?

So I’ve made a list of all the UK universities’ online donation pages. The ones in England will benefit from the Matched Funding – do definitely find yours and give what you can today. And, if you went to a Scottish or Welsh university, and my words have resonated with you – well, why should they miss out?

G K Chesterton said, “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.” And in that case I know of no places with more soul than our amazing universities. Let’s honour them and help them today.

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Has Google built a social tool for the professional fundraising community?

OK, so I’ve been playing with Google + the last couple of days.

I have to admit, I was underwhelmed by Google Wave – weren’t we all? – and I don’t have a Gmail account, so Google Buzz didn’t register with me much. So I wasn’t expecting Google + to impress me as much as it has. I share with my colleagues in the fundraising biz on Twitter and really enjoy that quick-fire format.

But against the odds Google + has impressed me. I think they’ve built a network that answers the social needs of professional fundraisers. Why?

Well, the concept of Circles is great. It means I can subdivide the people I know into Fundraising Colleagues or Friends, for a start. And within that I can share with colleagues who work in universities or the wider sector, just by setting up different Circles. Or folk who are interested more primarily in social media, etc. etc.

Once I’ve done that, yes, it does look very much like Facebook, except that it’s now, because of the crossover with Twitter among adopters, like having a Twitter chat with the people I like and interact with regularly there, but with much richer content. So far so good! And there’s the Twitter-like freedom of being able to add anyone I like to my Circles without having to worry about the social anxiety from Facebook of how well I know them.

It beats LinkedIn for me because LinkedIn is so much more focused around your CV and treats discussions as a sideshow, particularly on mobile. Also because I’m sharing professional views with who I choose to, I don’t have to worry that someone’s going to come in on a discussion primarily to try to sell to me. Another bonus.

And then there’s what I think could be Google +s ‘killer app’ – Hangouts. Up to 10 way video chat with just the individuals or people in Circles you want to invite. I tried it last night with Howard Lake of UK Fundraising and Kimberley Mackenzie. I’ve spoken to them both so many times on Twitter, but this was the first time we’d ever ‘met’. It was huge fun, enlivened by my 11 year old son, Joe, chipping in on the chat. We were all impressed by the video quality, and the way it senses who’s talking and focuses on them, so that everyone else has a visual signal whose turn it is to talk. You can even all watch YouTube content together. Joe’s verdict – “Awesome, Dad. Way better than Facebook!”

I want a webcam at work, now. I really do.

So, a rich blog-sharing/commenting platform where you can post at discretion and break into video chat to discuss compelling issues or content? Sounds tailor made for fundraisers to me. Why not grab yourself an invite and have a go? Feel free to add me 🙂

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