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This winter Dean Thomas O'Brien wrote that Isenberg SOM alums "may think that $100 or $1,000 is not much help . . . Please think again . . . A gift of $100 from every alumnus would mean $1.8 million a year."
And Dean O'Brien spoke only of SOM alumni and $100 donors. UMass has 160,000 living alums. Only half of us giving $25 would pour $2 million into the campus. All of us giving $50 would add up to an $8 million donor!
Vice Chancellor Royster Hedgepeth does the arithmetic this way: "If we have 500 donors giving us $100 apiece, it's as if they were a living endowment of $1 million producing an income of $50,000 a year. That's a pretty important dynamic." Also crucial is rate of participation, he says: "We have corporations and foundations that want to know, `What's your percentage of alumni giving?' The higher it is, the better our chances." Raising those percentages with a pledge of any size is the gift within any of our budgets.
We're on our way: Over the past year UMass has received support from 10,000 new donors, with almost a quarter of alumni now making gifts. Says Hedgepeth, "Every gift and every giver is important."
As Campaign UMass entered its second year it was more than one-third of the way toward its five-year goal of $125 million, Vice Chancellor for Advancement Royster Hedgepeth told the Faculty Senate this winter. Having raised $47.3 million, the campaign is actually on track to total $139 million, or $14 million over goal.
WELL, I was obviously on some list like "People-Who-Gave-Their-First-Year-Out," begins Nancy Sinclair `90 a young Boston software developer who, a bit to her own surprise, even, has gone from "kicking in a few dollars every year, even when I was in Georgia in graduate school," to giving a hundred dollars or so yearly when she started working for a start-up company in Cambridge in the early nineties, to responding to a suggestion last year that she become the youngest member of the Chancellor's Council of $1,000 donors.
This winter she capped it all by deciding to give $10,000 worth of stocks to start a fund supporting undergraduate research in the math department.
"Once in a while I'll stop and think `Whoa, that's a lot,'" says Sinclair. "But then I'll realize that in this market you could make that much in a week by being reasonably diligent."
Sinclair says "it made all the difference" that when she first heard from Tom Navin `92, the young development officer in charge of the Chancellor's Council contacts, he said, " `I'm calling you on behalf of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.' Because I feel so strongly that whatever success I have now is because I went to that school and that department and had such good luck."
Sinclair's "luck" at UMass was embodied in such empathetic and challenging teachers as Professor Ed Connors, and in such opportunities as the "Math Modeling Team" which Connors coaches yearly and in which she regularly took part. Her undergraduate preparation was so great "that I could have skipped the first year of graduate school," says Sinclair. It also put her in the way of a genuinely lucky economic trend: a serious, worldwide shortage of computer programmers.
That shortage has meant extraordinary freedom and opportunity for Sinclair. After a year or so of hectic work and stock accumulation with the Cambridge start-up, she could opt to become a free-lancer: one of the small, and quite international, legion of computer-whizzes who operate as highly-paid consultants in the new information economy. For about the last year, she's been with Fidelity Investments. On the floor where she has her current cubicle, she estimates that contractors, many of them Russian, Chinese, or East Indian men she's has been called "the token American girl," she says outnumber the regular employees.
The free-lancers have no job security and no benefits. Balancing that, they have much better pay and the freedom to move on. If a job should end before they expect it to, says Sinclair, "the reality is that finding another one takes about a day."
Having determined that, for now at least, "I don't think I fit anybody's corporate culture" and seeing her current freedom as a chance to make more money, learn more skills, work more reasonable hours, and acquaint herself with more parts of the economy Sinclair is perfectly happy with the free-lancer's lot. (She even likes the stress: the daily challenge of "Here's a program that somebody else wrote, in a language you don't know, and you've gotta fix it.") The current shortage of programmers is expected to last another decade; "If and when the bottom falls out of the market, then we'll get full-time jobs."
Asked where she'd like to be in twenty years, Sinclair says, perhaps not surprisingly, "maybe in something philanthropic." It has "something to do with having gone to school here," she says, that she has the idea that "whatever you do should benefit the world in general." For the time being, she's doing everything she can to benefit UMass: volunteering for career forums, taking part in the women's initiative we reported in the last issue, and, yes, giving money.
"It's so important," she says. "And it's so great that we can target our gifts to our own departments. I really hope this inspires other people my age to give whatever they can too."