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Small Gifts Add Up

They know their gifts matter.

While their contributions may not have a lot of zeros in them, these donors find satisfaction in giving to UT every year.

“I feel like that’s just doing your part as an alumnus,” said Ryan Oliver of Atlanta, a brand strategist for Twitter who earned his MBA at UT in 2006. “You don’t have to get your name on a building, but giving something back is really important.”

And they know they’re making a difference regardless of the size of their gifts.

“If 1,000 people give $50, that’s $50,000,” said Steve Bryant, a Houston attorney who earned his master’s in government from UT in 1997 and his law degree in 2000. “It all adds up.”

Oliver and Bryant are in a special category of donor — alumni who have given year in and year out during the Campaign for Texas.

So is Kyle McAdams, a 1986 architecture graduate living in Great Falls, Va. Managing director of marketing and business development for the American Institute of Architects, McAdams knows that modest gifts can be meaningful, especially over time. That’s why he gives every year.

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“I’ve been giving maybe $100, $200 for 30 years, but if you do the math and the interest on that, it gets to be a big chunk of change,” he said. “It’s like donating to your 401(k).”

Giving every year is also important because “costs keep going up every year, and state support keeps going down every year,” said Sandia, Texas, resident Linda Avila, a retired professor of educational administration who earned a doctorate in special education in 1986.

With $2.2 billion raised, the $3 billion Campaign for Texas is heading into its homestretch. So far 31.5 percent of alumni have contributed.

Small gifts play a big role in the Campaign for Texas. Of the 1.1 million gifts the campaign has received thus far, about a million — 90 percent — are less than $1,000.

Austin’s Sam Woollard, a 1988 social work graduate, runs Successful Giving, a consulting firm that brings businesses and nonprofit organizations together to realize their philanthropic goals, and she knows firsthand the importance of more modest gifts.

“One of the things I know from having worked with nonprofits is that small gifts oftentimes can be more flexible” because they aren’t limited to one specific purpose, she said.

First-time donors are coming on board, too. One of them is Tim Taliaferro, editor of the Alcalde, the Texas Exes’ alumni magazine. In a recent blog post, the 2005 history graduate wrote of being inspired by UT’s announcement that it had raised more in 2012-13 than in any previous year.

“What persuaded me was all the people who opened up their wallets (some 84,000 people, 2,600 corporations, and 304 foundations), the astonishing number of non-alumni who did so (35,000 or so), and that 90 percent of the gifts were for less than $1,000,” Taliaferro wrote. “If in one year that many people could donate to UT, particularly people who didn’t even graduate from here, so could I.”


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