Giving Back to GW: Class Gift of 2009
Many of you may have seen your favorite 3Ls staked out in the hard lounge with a stack of t-shirts and sweatshirts behind a table representing the 2009 Class Gift. For weeks, they have been collecting donations for the 2009 Class Gift. But what is the Class Gift? You might be surprised to learn that the 3Ls this year are not collecting money to pay for a gift for themselves.
The Class Gift, which is a tradition at GW Law, is actually a gift from the Class of 2009 to the Law School. Every year, graduating classes make a donation to the law school to fund a scholarship endowment for that year. For the next five years, the endowment makes it possible for future students to attend GW Law who might not otherwise be able to do so for financial reasons. But the donations don't just contribute to the scholarship fund. After five years, the Class of 2009 will be asked to decide whether they want their endowment to remain as a scholarship fund or to be used to address a more pressing need. For example, the class may decide that in five years the school really needs to add another clinic or journal, or that the wireless internet system needs to be upgraded. So the Class Gift of 2009 will continue to help better the law school for years to come. And if that's not enough, the benefits of donating to the Class Gift run the gambit from instant gratification to long-term warm fuzzies.
Those who make a one-time donation of $20.09 receive a t-shirt. Those who donate $10 every year for the next five years receive a class t-shirt and a sweatshirt. Finally, those who donate $20.09 every year for the next five years receive the t-shirt, sweatshirt, and a special gift. Aside from sporting a sweet new t-shirt this spring, Dan Zambrano, head of the 2009 Class Gift Committee, describes some of the more meaningful benefits of giving to this year's gift. "The short term benefit is partially altruistic, in that it will help other students enjoy the experience of attending GW Law." Section 12 Captain, Laura Wood, echoed this benefit saying, "one reason for donating is to change the life of a new GWU law student who will have a scholarship." Additionally, giving this year has medium and long term benefits. Because the Class of 2009 will be asked how they want their gift to be used after five years, "the medium term benefit has the potential to be more personal and tangible," says Zambrano. The Class can select the most pressing need with the most importance to them, and focus their gift on that. According to Zambrano, "in the long-run, regardless of what we choose to allocate these donations towards, the money students give now will help to maintain and improve the quality and prestige of GW Law as a whole." For Wood, "another reason for donating is to build a lasting relationship between the law school and students who are graduating. Giving back is a great way to make the school a better place by helping GWU accommodate the best and brightest students from across the country through scholarship opportunities." Dean Maggs, who has participated in the Class Gift every year comments that "students who give to the class gift usually take a strong interest in the school after they leave. In addition, alumni who graduated years ago are always impressed by the class gift; the willingness of students to give money inspires them to make donations of their own." With all these benefits, you may be wondering, just how does one get in on all these great benefits and donate to the Class Gift?
People can donate in a variety of ways. First, the most popular way to donate is by clicking the link on the portal entitled, "Class Gift Donation Page!" which is located under the "Commencement" section at the top of the portal. From this page, students can use a credit card to make a donation. Additionally, the Class accepts cash, credit, and check donations in person at the various tabling events. To get people excited about participating, the Class Gift Committee is using two of the most popular methods for achieving something: competition and free stuff.
"A little section rivalry goes a long way," said 3L Tara Ward. In order to get 3Ls pumped about donating, the Committee has challenged each section to see which section can get the most students to donate. Remember, the program is not about the amount that students donate. Wood says, "even if students can only afford to give a little, the greater cause is to have 100% participation to truly make this a gift from our entire class." The section with the highest participation rate will receive a special prize at the Class Gift end-of-the-year party. As of Monday, April 6, Section 12 was leading the pack with 44% of the section having donated. Here are the rest of the stats:
Section 12: 44%
Section 14: 39%
Section 11: 36%
Section 21: 25%
Section 13: 19%
When asked what sets Section 12 apart from the other sections participating, Section 12 Captain Kelly Curtain commented, "Section 12 is a very social and active section. We have a fierce competitive edge and we dare the other sections to bring it."
In the spirit of competition and giving, the Committee has organized events to get the 3Ls to donate. The most recent event was the Class of 2009 "BIG BREAKFAST." This event marked the halfway point of the campaign and was a huge success. According to Zambrano, "It was discussed amongst the Class Gift Committee and determined that what students really need is a good meal at the start of the day -i.e., a BIG BREAKFAST." The event was designed to thank those who have already donated and to remind those who needed a little more time to come up with some cash after their Spring Break vacations that there's still time to make a contribution. The campaign will finish off with dinner and drinks at Clyde's some time closer to graduation.
Putting the competition and free stuff aside, many 3Ls have donated and for various reasons. When Section 12 Captain, Mikey Carrington was asked he donated, he responded, "I'm thankful for what GW gave me these last three years, so I'm trying to give back. I think GW is a community...and I'd like to help maintain that feel." Carrington also noted that he does have a job starting this September, for him, donating was a little easier. For Section 11-er Maureen McGough, donating was about passing on the benefits that she was a recipient of: "As someone who received financial assistance from the school, I feel like this donation is the least I could do. GW is a huge financial commitment, but I think it's worth it and am happy to help others to - albeit in a very small way - be able to have the same experience." Additionally, she noted that her bar loan just came in and the free sweatshirt was all she needed to hit the ATM.
Although donating $10 or $20 may not sound like much, but for some, the tough economy has kept them from donating. Dean Maggs commented that "many 3Ls have large loans and many are still looking for jobs. Obviously, the ability of many to give is limited." This is especially true for those like Evann O'Donnell from Section 13. O'Donnell will be going into public interest and because public interest jobs don't pay a lot, she's not sure whether she wants to commit to yet another payment. For some, the choice not to donate has little to do with financial ability. An anonymous 3L transfer student noted that he, along with others in the transfer section, doesn't feel as closely tied to the GW community, making giving back to GW less of a priority. Additionally, for some, this year's academic debacles with the former Veteran's Clinic and Art Burger's Professional Responsibility class may have left a bad impression affecting the decision to give.
Yet despite these issues and the limited ability for some to donate, 51% of the Class of 2009 has donated to the class gift and the Committee, along with the section captains, continues to strive for more. The more people that participate, the better GW Law will be for those that follow the class of 2009. This is why the Committee lives by the famous quote by Winston Churchill: "We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give." Good luck to the Class of 2009.