The Senior Fund is something you will be repeatedly be asked to give to during your senior year. In order to entice you, various 'gifts' will be offered based on level of donation (mugs, sweatshirts, etc.)
Until 2000, Columbia didn't really bother asking its seniors for money. They had bigger, wealthier fish to fry. Then, someone had the bright idea that seniors should "get into the habit of giving back." Or more sanctimoniously, the effort is "to help educate young people about the notion that as they grow older in life, they have obligations, [just as] people before them have provided for them." So, in that fateful year, Columbia became the last Ivy League school to begin actively seeking senior fund donations. By contrast, Harvard's program was established in 1965. (And you wonder why fundraising at Columbia has historically sucked?)
On the flip-side, the Senior Fund's aggressive brow beating tactics (accused of being "bankrupt" by some students) has led it in short order to be among the top of the Ivy League in its ability to extract money. (And you thought only Student Financial Services could do that?) Each year, the fund sets a successively higher goal in an attempt to surpass the previous year's mark. CC '07 met an alumni challenge by donating at an over 84% rate. SEAS '07 showed them up by achieving a 100% participation rate. The CC Class of 2009 went on to break the 90% mark.
Of course no graduating class has been able to top the mother of all senior gifts - Marcellus Hartley Dodge donated $350,000 for Hartley Hall in 1903 for his graduation, which, adjusted for inflation, would be $8,283,446.82 in 2008 dollars. Suck on that CCSC.
In 2012, Charles Santoro, CC '82, pledged to donate up to $100,000 if 750 seniors in the Class of 2013 donated to the Senior Fund. This seemed to be an unreasonable goal, given how jaded most seniors were at the time. As a result, members of the Senior Fund committee emailed non-donors asking if they could donate in their name to reach the goal. Since many of these students' decision not to donate was meant to send a statement to the school (as opposed to financial hardship), they alerted Bwog and Santoro.
The application for the Class of 2014 Senior Fund committee application contained the question: “Your classmate is hesitant to give to the Class of 2014 Senior Fund. She feels that Columbia already has enough money and doesn’t think her gift will make a difference. What information would you share with her about the importance of supporting the Class of 2014 gift to the Columbia College Fund?”
- Senior Fund Collect; 75 Percent Gave in '04, Columbia Spectator, February 14, 2005
- Senior Fund's Methods are Bankrupt, Columbia Spectator, April 23, 2004
- Letters to the Editor: Senior Fund Not Out for Blood, But Simply University Improvement, Columbia Spectator, May 3, 2004
- Class of '13 Senior Fund fraud
- Senior Fund committee application, page 43
- Bwog article about Senior Fund kickoff