Think of giving to Ole Miss this way: If you gave $50 and nine other alumni and friends each gave $50, the Pride of the South Marching Band could have a new snare drum. We know the beloved Pride of the South is coming when we hear that beat – the unmistakable cadence that heralds the band’s entrance on a vibrant football Saturday.
If you gave $100 and 19 other people each gave $100, an Ole Miss student would have a scholarship. “But a $2,000 scholarship won’t go far with today’s tuition costs,” you might be thinking. Really? Ask a student how a $2,000 scholarship would impact him or her and watch the relief wash across a young face.
Let’s try another example: If 2,851 alumni each gave $50, there would be a major investment of $142,550 for the unexpected needs that arise each year at UM. Amazing, right? That’s what donors can achieve when their gifts are combined.
Fortunately, many donors believe in giving back and embrace the Ole Miss Fund, making annual gifts of varied, modest sizes to combine with others. Annual contributions from more than 8,000 donors in this fiscal year added up to almost $900,000 for programs across campus, focusing on academics and other student needs.
Meet Suzanne Thigpen, director of Annual Giving in the Office of University Development. Here she explains the impact gifts make:
Why is Annual Giving important to Ole Miss?
ST: “Gifts to the Ole Miss Fund, or Annual Giving, make an immediate and profound difference in students’ lives. The university depends on generous support to supplement state funding and assure that students have the resources to thrive. The dollars raised through Annual Giving go to work immediately and reach every corner of campus. Annual Giving falls into two distinct categories: unrestricted giving – gifts in support of the university’s budget – and restricted giving – gifts to support specific areas.”
Describe the impact that would occur if the majority of alumni and friends participated?
ST: “Gifts to the Ole Miss Fund support academics and campus programs right now. Even very modest gifts, combined with others, enable our academic units to provide better technology, learning opportunities and increased faculty support. No gift is too small; all gifts count and make a difference.”
What would surprise most alumni and friends about Annual Giving?
ST: “Our donors are as diverse as the needs they help meet. Alumni, friends, parents, faculty, staff and students choose the area to which they designate their gift. A gift can help ensure that Ole Miss:
• puts students first by offering a challenging and exciting academic environment, while providing crucial support for student success
• never turns a student away because of financial barriers
• creates meaningful educational experiences like community engagement, study abroad and research opportunities
• sustains a top-notch faculty dedicated to research and student learning
• maintains and builds facilities that meet the growing needs of the university”
What can alumni and friends expect in the new academic year?
ST: “I am very excited about the new Annual Giving stewardship efforts that will be taking place next year. Our donors will receive more thank you acknowledgements. We are also expanding efforts in educating donors on the various needs of the individual schools and programs. Everyone can expect to see more email communications next year.”
Why do we use students to call alumni and friends for gifts? How would you hope alumni and friends would respond to the callers, even if they aren’t planning at the time to make a gift?
ST: “Our hope is that our alumni and friends will take a moment to remember what it was like to be a college student when they hear from a student caller. Our students give alumni and friends the opportunity to hear about their experiences at Ole Miss, and the students benefit from career and life advice that alumni share. Our student callers are extremely dedicated; many graduates have contacted us to say they enjoyed the chance to speak with students and become more involved. Our ultimate goal is to make our alumni and friends feel more connected to the university and keep them abreast about various needs.”
When callers have comments about the University, what happens to that feedback?
ST: “All comments are tracked through our Campus Call system and reviewed by our Call Center manager. I handle responses on a case by case basis. It is important to our office that we respond in a timely manner to questions or concerns expressed by alumni and friends.”
Can you share an example?
ST: “Chris Muller, a 1995 graduate, wrote: ‘I wanted to let you know what a pleasure it was to visit with the female Ole Miss student who called me Sunday night. While I don't remember her name, the young woman was engaging, polite and I’m sure a great representation of the other members of the phone-a-thon staff and Ole Miss. I always enjoy visiting with the students who call for a few minutes before they get to the point of the call. If you could find a way to acknowledge her contribution and great Rebel energy, I would greatly appreciate it.’”
Impacting over 22,000 students, the Ole Miss Fund exists to bridge a gap – the gap between students’ financial capabilities and the value of an Ole Miss education. To make a gift or receive more information, contact Suzanne Thigpen at email@example.com or (662) 915-6625, visit www.umfoundation.com/makeagift, or send a check to The University of Mississippi Foundation at 406 University Avenue, Oxford, Miss. 38655.