Spreading the Squeeze
"Just as the proverbial kingdom depends on the horseshoe nail, so," writes President Pusey, "the good habit can influence destiny. This is why the custom of making annual gifts to the Harvard Fund has a cumulative effect of great meaning for the future of Harvard." While the Fund may have a limited influence on destiny, it is indeed important to the College. The moratorium on Fund activities during the Program provides time for a reassessment of the organization of the solicitors of the Fund.
The Harvard Fund garners contributions from only a little more than 40 per cent of the alumni contacted each year, while Dartmouth achieves almost 80 per cent, Princeton 70 per cent, and even Yale receives a far higher percentage of givers than Harvard. Though the Harvard contributions are larger on the average than those of any other college, the relatively low percentage of givers should be a matter of concern for the administration.
To insure both receipts and general support from its alumni the Fund should act to achieve a broader base of givers. Each class after '47 has but four agents for solicitation of contributions. Earlier classes have fewer. The Permanent Class Committee must labor mightily to find the four magic individuals who know most of their classmates--especially the affluent ones--and who are either Bostonians or New Yorkers. The small size of the Fund staff prevents the utilization of larger numbers of agents. The dominant belief that agents must be a part of a small happy family in constant contact with the Fund office limits the location of prospective class agents as well as their number.
Harvard College is no longer the exclusive property of Boston or the Northeast; many of its graduates flee yearly to the Provinces. It would seem that a far greater participation in the Fund could be assured if Harvard increased the number of its agents to include at least one from each House, and adopted a regional organization for its solicitation, as is done before the 25th reunion.
Such a program would require an expansion of the Fund office and a sacrifice of some of the close contact that the office maintains with its agents. The loss of the "family atmosphere" of the Fund would, however, result in an important increase in participation by alumni and increased ties with the college.
It is time to recognize that dependence on generous gifts from a relatively small percentage of alumni is an unfortunate one. The college should maintain as complete a contact with its alumni as possible, and the policy which results in keeping contact only with the favored few is one that should be reconsidered.