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Record-Breaking Class Gifts Boost Harvard College Fund

By Joanne L. Kenen

The Harvard College Fund will probably exceed its $5.7 million goal and is currently ahead of last year's winter total, Fund officials said yesterday.

By the end of last month, the Fund raised over $3.8 million and is roughly $580,000 ahead of last year's February total. Peter F. Clifton '49, executive director of the Fund, said yesterday.

The number of alumni participating in the yearly drive, which ends in June, is also increasing. The 9600 donors who have contributed thus far represent a 13-percent increase over the February 1976 figure.

The Class of 1927, which has slightly more than 500 members remaining, has already contributed over $1 million in cash, the largest gift a 50th reunion class has ever donated, Clifton said.

All the money the Fund raises is used to finance undergraduate-oriented programs. Roughly half the Fund's earnings is spent on financial aid while the remaining money helps pay for the House tutorial system and undergraduate activities including athletics and Loeb drama programs.

On Your Side

The Fund, which is a "make-it-or-break-it" factor in the Faculty's attempt to balance the budget, prevented next year's tuition, room and board hike from being even steeper than the proposed $475 increase, Robert E. Kaufmann '62, assistant dean for financial affairs, said earlier this month.

The Fund raised $5.45 million last year, establishing a new record and surpassing its 1976 goal of $5.25 million. Between 1972 and 1975, the Fund worked towards a $5 million goal but failed to get off a $4.8 million plateau.

A healthier national economy and changes in fundraising techniques both contributed to the Fund's subsequent growth, Clifton said.

Tax deadlines make December a crucial month for donations and substantial contributions this December may indicate that donors "have some confidence in what is going to happen to the economy" during the Carter administration, he said.

"People will give when they are asked," Clifton said, but impersonal fundraising letters do not constitute a request. The Fund has revamped its publications and instituted more personalized methods of contacting alumni which Clifton said are proving very effective.

The new publications are designed to keep alumni in touch with Harvard, he said. One bi-monthly pamphlet profiles a different "Harvard personality" in each edition, ranging from M. Robert Coles '50, research psychiatrist at the University Health Service, to William Emper '77, captain of the football team.

The new area class agent plan, implemented last year, divided the country into 14 regions with a representative from each class responsible for contacting his own classmates.

In past years, the country was divided into numerous smaller regions but the regional chairmen were not always personally acquainted with the alumni in their district.

"In any area of fundraising, personal contact makes a great deal of difference. When the contact is made by someone you went to school with it's even more effective," Daniel A. Phillips '60, head class agent for his class, said last night.

The Fund usually receives three or four gifts in the $100,000 range but so far there is only one large gift this year. Fund officials said they seek small gifts from many alumni, rather than large gifts from a few wealthy donors. The average gift last year was approximately $285 but the median was less than $100, Peter C. Brooks '74, assistant director of the Fund said yesterday.

Give 'Em An Inch...

"If you can get an alumni to give a small gift once, you can build on that in the future," Phillips said.

Although fundraisers seek funds from all Harvard alumni, more than 60 per cent of the donors are members of reunion classes. Last year's 25th reunion gift raised a record $1.2 million, William C. Sawyer '51, who headed his class's drive last year said yesterday. Sawyer said preliminary figures for the Class of 1952 gift look very promising.

Traditionally the 25th reunion gift is larger than the 50th reunion gift. If the roles are reversed this year, it will be a Harvard first, Clifton said, adding that the Class of 1927 is "unbelievable."

Last year's tenth reunion class has a few very large gifts which allowed it to raise an unprecedented sum which Clifton said will "probably be unbeatable for years." This year's tenth reunion won't exceed the amount in dollar terms but they will probably set a participation record, he added.

Representatives from the Class of 1967 reached 40 per cent of their classmates via telephone this fall, eliciting gift pledges from 86 per cent of those contacted. A follow up campaign is planned for this spring.

Clifton said the class's participation level is particularly encouraging. Recent graduates face college debts or graduate school fees and typically don't contribute to the Fund.

"I'm almost tempted to leave them alone," Clifton said half-kiddingly. But asking for small contributions of $10 or $15 keeps the younger alumni in touch with the Fund, Brooks said.

A major barrier to reaching these alumni is simply locating them, Clifton said. Graduates in their 20s and 30s are continually on the move and "it's like trying to find an Arab nomad.

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