Giving back – Colleges woo wealthy Gen X’ers

Young college alumni, flush with cash and stocks in the strong economy, are making astonishing large donations to their alma maters, U.S. News & World Report says.

Georgetown University, for example, pursued its under-40 alums with an annual fund letter and got a 10.5 percent return rate — three times the normal return on letters.

Two graduates of Bates College gave $150,000 for a scholarship. Marjorie Northrop Friedman, a lawyer, and her husband, Peter Friedman, met at the college.

“Entrepreneurs who hit it rich early in life don’t feel they have to buy a second house or jet,” said Steve Jurvetson, a venture capitalist who joined with his wife Karla to give a large gift to Stanford University at his class’ 10th-year reunion. “And colleges are the first charity they know and understand.”

Technology institutions are especially effective in sharing the windfall of young grads. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, which keeps track of its young techies and makes a pitch before their companies go public, received stock worth $2 million in Mapinfo from 36-year-old John Haller and his colleagues at Mapinfo.

Jeff Skoll, an eBay executive, gave more than $5 million to endow three chairs and build an engineering lab at the University of Toronto.

In addition, colleges are wooing women under-30, a group largely ignored in the past.

Many of the younger donors are interested in personal projects rather than paying for bricks-and-mortar to be named after them.

Investor Doug Ross made a $25,000 donation to the University of Richmond as his way of saying thanks for helping him spend his junior year in Spain. His company matched the donation and he persuaded several friends to kick into what he hopes will be a $1 million endowment. He stipulated that the endowment be used to pay for students to study and travel abroad.

“It’s noticeable across all types of charities: Younger donors are making larger gifts,” professor Timothy Seiler of Indiana University’s Center on Philanthropy, told the magazine.

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