The launch of Saxa Fund, a fundraising platform that streamlines the relationship between donors and students, represents an enormous stride for the university in engaging its alumni base.
The platform, which aims to “connect creative campus initiatives with community support,” will allow alumni to give tax-deductible donations directly to student-led initiatives posted on the Saxa Fund site.
A joint project between Students of Georgetown, Inc., the Georgetown University Alumni Student Federal Credit Union and the Georgetown University Student Association, the Saxa Fund currently hosts three initiatives: a credit builder program for low-income students, a student film project and a fund for portable lights for Kehoe Field.
Currently, about 35 percent of Georgetown alumni donate to the university, compared to an average of 60 percent at peer institutions such as Princeton University and Duke University. By cutting out the university as an intermediary, Georgetown alumni can potentially bolster their participation by directly funding initiatives to which they would like to contribute.
The development of the Saxa Fund remedies a long-standing shortcoming of the existing Georgetown Giving program through Georgetown’s Office of Advancement, which only provides broad categories for alumni donations such as the Georgetown Fund, Mission and Ministry and Undergraduate Financial Aid. This system precludes the donation to individual academic departments, only allowing broad options for the four undergraduate schools.
Furthermore, these existing donation channels prioritize institutions instead of student projects. The broadness of Georgetown Giving’s categories dissuades students from establishing personal connections with alumni because there is no way for an alumnus or alumna to guarantee that his or her money goes directly to a particular student’s efforts through the university.
The Saxa Fund not only addresses the issue of specificity, but also promotes greater transparency and accountability in the donation process. All proposals are reviewed by a board consisting of The Corp CEO, GUASFCU CEO, GUSA executive and three alumni and require an itemized budget and contingency plan.
Furthermore, the Saxa Fund does not contribute to the core operating expenses of student organizations, instead providing subsidies for projects that would otherwise be outside the fiscal reach of students. Once the funding goals are met, the project is removed from the site and replaced with a new initiative, allowing for as many projects as possible to have the opportunity to benefit from alumni donations.
These mechanisms insulate the fundraising process from student organizations directly receiving enormous or suspicious donations, as well as protect from the possibility that the Student Activities Commission reduces funding for students groups that benefit from the program.
However, the only way for the platform to become a viable fundraising tool is if students continue to come up with creative initiatives they feel will improve Georgetown. The program currently features three projects, but through the sustained investment of students and alumni, the program stands to become an integral institution that provides key linkages between students and alumni.
If today’s undergraduates view the program as a central vehicle to improving university life, the Saxa Fund can serve as a lasting program that empowers the community for generations. The mantle of responsibility for this initiative lies not only with the alumni making the donations, but also with the student in organizations who can inspire their generosity to the university.
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