Tag Archives: Overreaction

University Donations

Hello again my friends… I guess this should get filled on miscellaneous and maybe “times they are a changin'”


I recently made very meager donations to my high-school, undergraduate university, and graduate university. The response that I got from each of the universities was quite disproportionate with the what I would expect which made me think

Really meager…:

I cannot over emphasis the meagerness of those donations. These are all institutions with endowments that start in the millions of dollars, and all receive many gifts, grants, and donations in the millions of dollars. My gifts, at best, represent less than 1/1000 of a percent (yeah, that’s like 0.001% or 0.00001 of what they received). They are the types of gifts that normally either don’t even make it to the annual report or get lumped into the “Other donors”.

Over the top University reactions:

A few days after sending my gifts, I began receiving acknowledgement emails. These automated or semi automated messages were quickly replaced by very personalized messages, almost as though it came from a long lost friend or relative. “How is it going in Boston?”, “Are you working on interesting projects?”. Amusing enough, I chalked it up to a low cost / low effort attempt to gain more of a contact with donors (even cheapskates like me). A few weeks later, the emails were replaced with notes and cards thanking me for the donation. Not only were they cards, they were cards with personal notes handwritten on them. I was floored.

What does it all mean:

In my true nature, I began wondering about what it all meant. Were these schools so desperate for funds that they needed to thank everyone and anyone? Even someone like me who has never donated and isn’t sure about doing it again? Or were my gifts so low that they became a laughable matter. I can see them thinking “Yeah, obviously you’re not working on any interesting projects because you can’t even afford to send us something that won’t cost us more to process than it’s worth.” I do not know what it all means, just that the intensity of response was way over the top of the gift, and it made me a bit uncomfortable. Don’t get me wrong. I’m a firm believer that every little step counts, and that a lot of these small gifts will become something. It’s just that it feels funny when the level of gratitude you get for a gesture is out of whack with gesture itself.

Parting Thought:

Here’s an idea… if you ever feel down on yourself and want to have a nearly unsolicited letter of gratitude and adoration that is sure to boost your ego, make a little donation to your alma mater… you’ll get that boost within 3-5 days.

Update… 6 months on… The attention continues