What is the Annual Fund? How does it work, and why should I support it?

Gifts to the Annual Fund are put towards needs in our operating budget. Every dollar is spent each year.

  • The Annual Fund supports things such as Financial Aid, Learning and Teaching initiatives, Life and Career, Carleton Athletic Initiative, and Areas of Greatest Need. Donors can support their strongest passions by giving to one of the first four designations, or to Areas of Greatest Need to give the College flexibility to respond quickly to ever-changing student and program needs.
  • Gifts to Areas of Greatest Need frequently support financial aid, because Carleton guarantees to meet 100% of demonstrated financial need for its students.
  • Annual Fund gifts are especially critical because they provide the college with financial flexibility to meet unexpected needs and opportunities. For example, flexible dollars for the operating budget this year supported increased scholarships for students whose family circumstances changed for the worse; earmarked support for the larger than anticipated Class of 2020 to ensure their aid packages are stable over their four years; and provided emergency funds such as those we used for a DACA student who needed to fly back to their home state on 24 hours’ notice to get a visa re-approved, and we who were excited to subsequently see receive a green card just one month later.
  • Nearly half of Carleton alumni – about 12,000 people – donate to the AAF every year. The most common gift amount is $100. These alumni from all walks of life give in thanks for their Carleton experience, and to pay it forward so current students can have the same experience.
  • All Carleton students are subsidized by alumni giving – even those paying the full comprehensive fee.

What is the difference between the Annual Fund and the endowment?

The endowment is a collection of invested funds, from which Carleton receives a portion of the returns each year. These returns are often restricted to certain purposes. Typically Carleton works to spend 5% or less of its endowment. This means that for every $100MM invested, we have $5MM to spend. This ratio demonstrates the power of the Annual Fund. Last year, we raised $10MM in unrestricted dollars for Carleton. This is equivalent to growing the endowment by more than $200MM—and we raise that much in unrestricted cash giving every year.

Both pieces are therefore critical to the operation of the college, but for the vast majority of donors, Annual Fund gifts are the single best way to make an impact on the college because these gifts go to work immediately for the college’s priorities.

Why does Carleton’s donor participation rate matter?

This is a great question. Ultimately, more gifts from more people help Carleton become more successful. Our community values every Carl – from every era, region, and background. We believe that every Carl has something important to say, that every Carl inspires one another, and that every Carl has the potential to change the world. For every Carl to fulfill their potential, we need every Carl to play a role in fostering one another’s success. Every single gift is a reflection of our community’s commitment to a superior world-class education. The participation rate in particular is a way to gauge that success beyond the simple number of total dollars raised. Here are two ways that higher participation rates can help Carleton:

  • From the Princeton Review to U.S. News, evaluators look at the level of alumni giving as a way to judge alumni satisfaction and factor that into their overall rankings. That can boost our rankings on such evaluations (which is great!), but more importantly, prospective students, their parents, and even prospective faculty and staff look at that number when considering coming to Carleton. These potential Carls are data-savvy in making their college decisions, and this is a great way to show them that the alumni will have their back—that even before coming to Carleton, we support them and are doing everything we can to make sure that they’ll be successful here. Participation rates of 50% or higher particularly stand out, and we have regularly been in the top five nationwide. Imagine the message it would send to prospective students if they saw we were #1!
  • High participation rates also demonstrate alumni satisfaction to corporations, foundations, and other larger donors, who see a high level of giving and thus consider the college a more sound investment for their gifts. Gifts of any level can thus contribute to opening up doors for Carleton to receive many more opportunities through the recognition and dollars these grants and other private donations can provide.

What are matching gifts and how do they work?

Matching gifts are monies from donors’ employers that are offered to augment an individual’s giving. An estimated $10B is left each year in unclaimed matching money nationwide, and hundreds of employers across the country match gifts to charity. It’s also great to know that matching gifts count toward a donor’s total recognition, so they can make a big difference in reaching class goals or joining leadership giving societies! When making your own donations, or encouraging classmates to make theirs, always to be sure to ask about employers’ matching contributions.

A typical matching process is as follows: the donor makes a gift to Carleton. If making the gift online, the donor has an opportunity on Carleton’s giving form to check if their company offers a match and read about their policies. For example, when making a gift online, a donor can search for 3M. They’ll see a pop-up box that details the matching ratio and any minimum or maximum amounts (3M matches gifts 1:1 up to $250). The donor can alternatively check their company’s website or ask HR about the necessary matching gift forms. Typically, all that is required is to fill out a brief form and send a copy of the Carleton gift receipt to the point person at the donor’s company. Carleton will then receive a check from the company matching the donor’s original gift. 

What is the Gould Society?

The Gould Society highlights the importance of consistent support of the AAF, recognizing donors who have given continuously year after year (regardless of gift size). Membership is granted when a donor has made a gift to the AAF three years in a row or more, or by becoming a Sustainer during their senior gift campaign. Special recognition is given to donors who have made gifts for 25 consecutive years, and for 50 consecutive years

Can I “buy back” membership to the Gould Society if I missed a year of consecutive giving?

We do not have an official “buy back” policy. For our dedicated donors who have only missed a year or two in the midst of decades of consistent giving, we are more than happy to reinstate someone’s CYG to what it would have been without that missed year.  We hope these donors continue to make gifts that are meaningful to them. Often this means that donors will stretch a gift the next year, or give two gifts rather than one, to compensate for the missed gift. However, extra gifts are not requested or required; what is important to us is to recognize our generous donors in a way that helps them feel as needed and appreciated as they are!

What is the Three Oaks Society?

Carleton is grateful to all of its donors and recognizes those donors in a number of ways. Gifts to the Alumni Annual Fund are primarily recognized through two giving societies: The Maize and Blue Society for donors who give $1-2,499 to the AAF each year, and the Three Oaks Society recognizes donors who give $2,500 or more each year, or in the case of our youngest alumni, gifts of $500 or more in the first four years after graduation, and for $1,000 or more in the subsequent five years. Every gift to the Alumni Annual Fund is important; we hope that the Three Oaks Society will steward those who support the college with leadership gifts, and who play a vital role in growing the AAF.

Learn more about the Three Oaks Society. 

What is the Heywood Society or what is planned giving?

Carleton honors alumni, parents and friends who have made deferred gifts to benefit the College through membership in the Joseph Lee Heywood Society. Today, over 2,000 people are members of the Heywood Society. Deferred or planned gifts are those gifts that provide for Carleton through a donor’s estate, through things like estate beneficiaries, retirement plan beneficiaries, or charitable gift annuities or charitable remainder trusts. This is a great way to offer classmates another opportunity to say “yes!” to Carleton.

While Annual Fund gifts are needed every year and provide critical support for the college’s ongoing work, planned gifts may provide donors an opportunity to leave a larger gift to Carleton through the donor’s alternative financial resources. Depending on the type of planned gift, there is no minimum. Donors interested in joining the Heywood Society can contact any of our staff and we’ll put them in touch with the planned giving team, or they can contact Director of Planned Giving Lynne Wilmot directly at 507-222-4200.