A New Generation of F&M Philanthropists
Who are the next Franklin & Marshall benefactors? The members of the Student Giving Committee say: Look in the mirror.
A total of 639 students contributed to fundraising efforts in the 2023 fiscal year, surpassing their goal of 400 total students by more than 50%. This number is up from 325 total students in fiscal year 2022 and 136 in 2021.
Lara Gillingham '23, the previous chair of the Student Giving Committee, and rising senior Hope Petralia, the committee's incoming chair, have one message: Diplomats do not need to wait until they graduate to start giving back to their school.
The committee hit its goal of 300 student donors from the class of 2023 during the Lux et Lex Walk on May 12, a tradition marking the closing of graduates' experiences at F&M with a final pass through its famous gate. Regardless of the size of their donation, senior donors received cords recognizing their contributions as they walked alongside "Diplomats Forever" posters. The symbolism is clear — those who start a "habit of giving" now will continue, and their gifts will support future generations of F&M students.
The Student Giving Challenge created a friendly competition and showed that it is never too early to contribute to the College. At various events throughout the spring semester, including Day of Giving, the campus-wide end-of-year party, and Senior Week activities, students from all classes started a habit of giving with their first monetary gifts. Donors could choose their contribution's recipient — Financial Aid, Diplomat Athletics, Academic Excellence, Student Experience, and Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Priorities. They could also donate to The Franklin & Marshall Fund, which allocates money to areas of greatest need, providing the resources necessary to sustain the College and its mission of excellence in undergraduate education.
Gillingham, of Washington, D.C., attributes her philanthropic spirit in part to the influence of her mother, Denise Gillingham '80.
"My mom is an F&M alumna and is very involved in supporting the school, which taught me how crucial it is to give back," she says.
Petralia, whose parents, Michael and Catherine, are members of the Parents Council, expressed a desire to join the initiative to "get involved and have an immediate impact on the College." She also wanted to educate students on the value of donations for all aspects of student life.
Students on the committee say that giving back to the College can help recent graduates in their future endeavors. Alumni will see a return on their investment as their F&M diploma — and the invaluable education it symbolizes — opens greater opportunities for further education and careers.
Petralia tries to impress on her peers that the value of their degree is largely dependent on the College flourishing.
"Along with everything else, donating is investing in your future," she says.
Student ambassadors most want to share that there is no minimum age or salary to be a philanthropist. Giving is not just limited to those who are more established in their career paths. The philanthropic journey starts with a gift of any amount.
"If a student can give just $1, they are still making a difference," Petralia says. "If 500 students give $1, that's $500. It may not seem like much, but it adds up."
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