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BREAKING: Fundraising Meltdown: Participation and Contributions Drop

Phil Hanlon15.jpgAs ye sow, so shall ye reap, Phil Hanlon. Four years of ineptitude are being reflected in fundraising numbers so dismal that people all over higher education are talking. Rather than accelerating in the run-up to the formal announcement of the capital campaign, donations to the College are dropping precipitously.

Numbers at the Dartmouth College Fund are causing fundraisers to shake their heads, though the surprise is limited, given that at a springtime meeting between student leaders and DCF organizers, the students let the alumni muckymucks have it in no uncertain terms. They confirmed in words what the senior survey stated in numbers: Phil Hanlon and his administration are deeply unpopular.

Participation in giving by alumni dropped over the past year to about 39% — the first time in Dartmouth’s history that involvement has fallen to such a low level — from 42% and 43% in the two most recent years. In my day, the College and Princeton were neck and neck at about 70% giving; Princeton’s most recent figure was a healthy 56.8%. (The only major school to currently approach the old-time numbers is Tuck, where 70% of living alumni contribute money annually.)

Beyond the drop in giving by individuals, total giving is way down, too, by double digits below the year’s target according to several sources. The shortfall would be in the order of tens of millions of dollars.

The administration’s high-handed treatment of fraternities, AD in particular (here and here), seems to be motivating many loyal alumni to turn away from the College. One story making the rounds is that this spring Phil received an envelope with checks from ten of his Class of 1977 Alpha Delta brothers. Each one was for the same amount: $0.00.

Will the Trustees finally act, now that the numbers are clear? Certainly the Board has long received deeply troubling qualitative reports regarding the Hanlon administration. Today the Trustees can assess the results in incontrovertible quantitative form.

How can anyone not see what a disaster the current administration is?

Addendum: As a low-energy guy, Phil Hanlon is hardly an inspiring fundraiser. And he has little to share in the way of new ideas or initiatives when he talks about his plans for the College. That he has not fired his ineffective and much-disliked direct report, Senior VP for Advancement Bob Lasher, speaks volumes about Phil’s inabilities as a manager. He does not recognize talent, or its absence, and he can’t cut loose a failing administrator.

Addendum: The College’s sad results come against the backdrop of a stock market that hits new highs week after week (including yesterday). In addition, the capital campaigns of institutions like Harvard and USC have set all-time records in the past year; both schools surpassed their ambitious goals. Why not the College? You know why.

Addendum: An older alumnus writes in:

If the latest numbers on alumni giving aren’t the last straw, there may not be one. 39 freakin’ per cent! That’s unthinkable for anyone who was in Hanover in our time.

But regarding your suggestion that the Trustees defenestrate Phil: and then what comes next? After a three-decades-long parade of Freedman, Wright, Kim, (Folt), and Hanlon, you might reasonably ask if we can do any worse. The horror is that these same Trustees may be up to that challenge.

If this were a business or political organization, one of the first sources of candidates to succeed Phil would be promotion from within, especially when there appear to be two excellent leaders running the graduate schools of business and engineering. Nah — too rational.

Addendum: An alumnus writes in:

Not looking forward to being a head agent going into a Reunion Year in this environment. Our class participation fell 7%, almost entirely due to war on AD and SAE, against backdrop of placating #BLM, Duthu fiasco, etc.

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