The Giving Tree, a new campus club this semester, educates students on ways they can give back to Mills College financially and personally once they’ve graduated.
The club was founded by Gurpreet Tung, the Annual Outreach Fund Programs Coordinator, to raise awareness about the importance of philanthropy and to form relationships with alumnae.
“Recent graduates didn’t understand why the College was getting in touch with them,” Tung said, referring to phone calls graduates receive from the Annual Outreach Fund Program asking for contributions.
“Giving back doesn’t just mean money, though,” Tung said. “Time and energy are important, too. Anything you’re capable of doing can help, really, be that donating a large sum of money or coming on campus to interact with other students.”
And for those who give back financially, there’s no need to worry about how much or how little the donation is, said Shelby Duncan, a Giving Tree council member.
“Smaller gifts have a way of snowballing into more money,” said Chelsea Ekholm, another club council member.
Duncan elaborated, saying, “Corporations see that students are committed to the College, which encourages them to contribute as well.”
Tung has said the College understands that students face monetary restrictions immediately following graduation.
“As such, they (Mills doesn’t) expect much,” she said. “However, they realize that, once a student is stable, the likelihood of larger gifts is more possible.”
According to data collected by the Office of Institutional Advancement, tuition covers 58 percent of the operating budget, while 16 percent comes from the endowment. The other 26 percent is left up to private donations. These private donations go into unrestricted funds, which are put towards anything the school may want or need.
“It’s not about how much, but that alumnae participate by giving back,” Tung said.
Alumnae participation can benefit the College and future students.
“Participation is important because it leads to higher ratings, which makes more people aware about Mills,” Illia said.
The Giving Tree is currently planning its spring campaign, which will be called A Day Without Donors.
The campaign will shut down amenities that wouldn’t be possible without donations from alumnae. In addition, A Day Without Donors organizers plan to bring alumnae and current students together to compare their experiences and facilitate networking. The hope is for students to form relationships with alumnae that will lead to future job opportunities.
“The full details about the actual event are being worked out and we should know more details in the coming weeks,” Tung said.
A Day Without Donors is also a way of saying thanks to alumnae. Students will gather in Adams Plaza and have the opportunity to write cards to donors, thanking them for making various opportunities on campus possible.
“The lights wouldn’t be on without donors,” Ekholm said to illustrate the importance of alumnae and their donations, some of which fund scholarships and free printing.
Tacked up to one of the windows of the Tea Shop is a cutout of a tree with various names and organizations written on the leaves. The poster was designed by Illia and made through a group effort.
“The leaves show what we’d be missing without the generosity of others,” Illia said.
Those involved with the Giving Tree hope to inspire others to feel as they do: that giving back to Mills is worth their time and effort.
“People need help realizing the importance of giving,” Ekholm said. “That’s what The Giving Tree is here for.”
Tung echoed the importance of giving.
“Giving back to the College is a way of showing your appreciation and can result in more generous donations that provide opportunities for future students,” she said. “There are many traditions students take part in while at Mills, and giving back to the College is just a continuation of those traditions.”