How Does $5 turn into $Billions?

Farm truck

What is the magic formula?

Vegas is not involved.

And while compound interest is amazing, I am not referring to investment products.

I want to talk about the investment of time. Investment in your alumni.

Below is the story of a famous entrepreneur whose first gift to their alma mater was $5.00. After years of investment by the school leadership and fundraising staff, that alumnus recently committed over $1 billion for scholarships; actually, if you read the story excerpt, he has committed or given over $2 billion to the school over his lifetime.

The story goes like this:

“... I was lucky: My father was a bookkeeper who never made more than $6,000 a year. But I was able to afford Johns Hopkins University through a National Defense student loan, and by holding down a job on campus. My Hopkins diploma opened up doors that otherwise would have been closed, and allowed me to live the American dream. I have always been grateful for that opportunity. I gave my first donation to Hopkins the year after I graduated: $5. It was all I could afford. Since then, I’ve given the school $1.5 billion to support research, teaching and financial aid.

… I want to be sure that the school that gave me a chance will be able to permanently open that same door of opportunity for others. And so, I am donating an additional $1.8 billion to Hopkins that will be used for financial aid for qualified low- and middle-income students.

… we need more graduates to direct their alumni giving to financial aid. I’m increasing my personal commitment ... But it’s my hope that others will, too, whether the check is for $5, $50, $50,000 or more…”

The Author? Michael Bloomberg. Please understand, I may not agree with the politics and worldview of this author, but I do agree with the need to connect with alumni, the very folk at the center of your connection circles. I believe in the potential benefits of connecting with alumni. They have an interest and connection.

$5 to $billions. He believed, and still believes, in the mission of his school, and I am willing to wager that the author received a few thank you notes, newsletters, updates, lunches, and meetings over the years from fundraising directors, board chairs, and other alumni.

Sounds as if the formula is: donor belief in your mission + keeping donors and other up-to-date on that mission = success now and tomorrow.

Sure, our Lutheran K-8 and high schools probably are not in the running for a billion-dollar commitment, but I bet your school has received a surprise gift from “unknown” alumni via their will, or maybe a capital campaign. The capacity to give is a multiplier to the formula above, but if alumni are not connected to your mission, and are not connect with, then you are multiplying any capacity by Zero.

As the author notes… $5, $50, $50,000… a donation in any amount will make a difference. The investment will produce results.

Whether your church and school are 20 years old… 50… 150… think of the number of students and the families that walked through those doors and were given the tools to be, as stated before, “good citizens of God”. They are waiting to be re-connected to you.

There are many benefits to alumni connection beyond just donations. TLSP has published previous articles on these benefits here, here, here, here, and here. We also have a Best Practices Outline available if you are interested.