|Flourish Online Magazine||Spring 2010|
Silent Heroes: Anonymous giving has a major impact
By Jarmea L. Boone
Artwork by Joshua Stone
Friends of the KSU College of the Arts often offer to donate time, money or skill to the college, to a project, to a particular faculty member or to a student. Sometimes the offer comes with one line of “small print:” the friend wants to remain anonymous.
The anonymous donation is revered to the highest degree and the giver’s identity is kept with the utmost secrecy. Most anonymous gifts go towards “big impact” items. Stacie Barrow, director of development at KSU, says, “The donors usually want their funds to go towards things that have a broader impact on all students, faculty and staff.”
For instance, the KSU Department of Theatre and Performance Studies has benefited greatly from anonymous giving in recent years. “Some of our gifts are tagged for specific faculty and staff from the giver,” says Assistant Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies Jamie Bullins. “We honor what the anonymous giver requests.”
His colleague, Associate Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies Karen Robinson agrees. “Gifts to our department allow us to pursue initiatives and special projects that raise the standard of excellence in our programming and also contribute to the reputation of the department as offering students opportunities that go above and beyond the usual to the extraordinary.”
An anonymous gift also had direct impact on Associate Professor of Theatre and Performance Studies Harrison Long. “I am happy to have been one of the honorees named in an anonymous gift,” he says. “It is gratifying to know that someone notices the hard work we’ve done and understands the impact that it has on our marvelous students.”
Anonymous giving is not unique to Kennesaw State. An April 2009 article by Ben Gose of The Chronicle of Philanthropy states, “At least 14 colleges have reported receiving a total of $74.5 million from a donor who won’t even share his or her name with the institutions.”
Barrow says it is a private decision, “Anonymous donors may not want the public recognition for many reasons.” Studies conducted over the past 20 years indicate that the two most popular reasons that mystery donors want to give anonymously is to avert solicitations from other charities and because of a desire to keep a gift secret from family or friends.
Robert F. Sharpe Jr., a Memphis fundraising consultant, believes that “the severity of the current recession is also leading to new reasons for seeking anonymity. Individuals who have suffered little, or even prospered, during the downturn aren’t rushing out to buy expensive sports cars, for the sake of appearances. Such people might not want to stand out with a flashy, high-dollar gift either.” Gose reports, “During the past 10 months, the proportion of gifts worth $1 million or more that have been made anonymously far exceeds historic patterns.”
The idea of the anonymous donor also reminds faculty and staff to be good stewards of these gifts and to treat everyone respectfully and well. According to Barrow, “You never know who’s paying attention to your good work.”