UConn Foundation should be careful when soliciting donations

The UConn Foundation, the private fundraising organization for the University of Connecticut, has recently announced that it will be pushing for more donations from Health Center patients and parents of students. While every school must pursue fundraising from these two potentially important donor pools, the UConn Foundation should proceed with care as it seeks to increase donations from these groups.

As noted by the Associated Press, UConn Foundation president Joshua Newton “said in an interview with the Associated Press that he understands solicitations may be resented by some already facing large bills for medical treatment or tuition, but there are others who just need to be informed of the opportunity to donate to a cause that is important to them.”

This quotation gives some cause for concern. It suggests that the foundation intends to pressure people with large outstanding bills to the university for more money. Apart from a select few wealthy donor-class parents, it is inappropriate to ask people who are paying thousands of dollars already to reach a little deeper into their pockets. The vast majority of people who have recently made large payments to the university would see additional solicitation as brazen and disrespectful.

This is especially true for patients at the Health Center. As the New Haven Register reports, the foundation believes that “if someone has survived a heart attack, beaten cancer or received a new treatment as a result of the work being done at UConn, that person might be willing to donate to ensure others can receive the same care or can benefit from research breakthroughs.”

Fair enough, but the relevant point is that those individuals have completed their treatments and are in a position to express gratitude. If the foundation intends to pursue current patients, the story may very well be different. Cancer patients currently undergoing chemotherapy and struggling to pay their medical bills would probably not be very receptive to requests for further money and would likely take offense.

This is why the foundation must proceed with care as it attempts to increase donations from these two groups. In general, it should avoid soliciting people with large pending payments to the university and focus on individuals who benefitted from UConn’s services in the past and now have some money to spare. If the foundation intends to solicit from current patients and parents, they should find a way to target their solicitations so that they pursue only those few who are actually in a position to give.