By Burke Olsen
Born into humble conditions, scarcely surviving periods of devastating financial setbacks, BYU has prospered because people were willing to sacrifice their means for what they felt was a higher cause.
At critical times in the university”s history, friends in the community, faculty members, students and alumni have offered their resources, restoring the breath of life to a once monetarily decrepit institution.
Though times are easier and days are more prosperous, BYU still depends heavily on donations.
The combination of financial support from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and tuition funds do not meet the financial needs of the university, said Kyle Tressner, associate director of Annual Giving at BYU. “We rely on donations for everything beyond that.”
Though donations come from many sources, BYU raises more than $2.5 million annually from alumni contributions, which are sought through direct mail and telefund campaigns, Tressner said.
Only 21 percent of alumni currently donate. President Bateman has set a goal to increase that to 50 percent, and thus came the beginnings of the Annual Fund, Tressner said.
The Annual Giving department at BYU is part of the LDS Foundation, operated by The Church of Jesus Christ. The department”s function is to coordinate fund raising efforts on campus.
The three main barriers, that keep people from donating are not understanding how much the funds are needed, feeling that their contributions will not make a difference, and believing that they are already contributing by paying tithing, Tressner said.
“Some people think you have to be really wealthy to give, but you don”t,” he said.
JoAnn Madsen and her husband, both BYU graduates, have four children who have graduated from BYU and a son who is currently enrolled. Madsen said that she and her husband donate to BYU once or twice a year.
“It isn”t ever a huge amount, but our children have been blessed to receive scholarships and we feel like we need to give something back so someone else can have a chance,” Madsen said.
A draft version of a new pamphlet to be sent to alumni says, “…the majority of donors contribute modest sums regularly, according to their means.”
“$2.5 million is a big gift, but it couldn”t happen without the $15 contributions,” Tressner said.
The average amount of a first-time contribution is $40. With more than 52,000 people donating each year, the current average of overall donations is $105, Tressner said.
Madsen feels it is a blessing to help others receive an education.
“We feel that in our own little way maybe we can help someone,” Madsen said. “There are people who probably couldn”t attend school without some help.”