The smaller good

Sometimes modest gifts do the greater good.

Lynn students sitting in the grass in front of the International Business Center

Generosity has no minimum giving level. It can be a $15 million donation, like Christine E. Lynn’s gift to the new university center. Or it can be a $15 donation stuffed into an envelope, signed “anonymous.”

To Lynn, all gifts are acts of great generosity, and they all make a difference. Modest gifts, in fact, make up the highest percentage of donations to the annual fund: Almost 80 percent are less than $500.

“People like to give to people,” said Sherry Henry, associate director of annual giving. “They see the students, they meet President Ross, they know the faculty, and they want to be part of that. It feels good to see the faces of the people your gift impacts.”

In a 2016 study, The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that 53 percent of donors at any level make gifts only when they know their support is making a real difference.

Annual gifts below $500 allow Lynn to respond to immediate needs and award scholarships for students, the greatest good for any school.

In the last three years, the average gift to Lynn’s annual fund has more than tripled, now just above $394. This reflects a change in national giving patterns, too. According to a study of tax returns spanning 2006–2012, The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that the wealthiest Americans (those who earn $200,000 or more) have reduced the share of income they donate by 4.6 percent. On the other hand, middle- and lower-income Americans have increased their share of income donated by 4.5 percent.

Dr. Lisa Miller, director of annual programs, is not surprised by this trend. She believes middle- and lower-income Americans give a higher percentage of their incomes because they have benefited personally at some point from the work of nonprofits, perhaps from a scholarship.

“They realize that someone helped them and they are truly paying it forward,” said Miller, who holds a doctorate in organizational leadership and is an expert on the behavior of giving.

Lynn is fortunate to have a vibrant mix of donors, those who give smaller gifts and major donors who come through for big projects like new buildings and endowments. Annual gifts below $500 are bread-and-butter donations for Lynn. They allow the university to respond to immediate needs, fund travel for research and competition and, of course, award scholarships for students, the greatest good for any school.

“Major donors make a significant difference with one gift,” Miller said, “but often they are done after a year or two. Annual fund donors, though, give every year and sometimes more than once a year.”

Receiving gifts great and small does more than balance the university’s portfolio.

“It creates a beautiful community of supporters,” Henry said, “to have people of all income levels giving what they can to a cause they believe in."

More from this issue

Take the next step
Get started on your future today
Complete your application and secure your spot.
Pictures tell only part of the story. Come see for yourself.
How would you like to hear from us?

We are Lynn

ASSAF Courtyard
ASSAF courtyard during Spring Break 2019.
Charlotte Jerdak, student
Ross College of Education students
Ross College of Education students enjoy having class in the amphitheater outside the new Christine E. Lynn Center.
Jennifer Lesh, faculty member
Lynn Hockey team
Lynn's ice hockey team captured the East Florida Collegiate Hockey Conference title, beating Flagler in the finals 5-0.
Theodore Curtis, faculty member
Watson Institute master course with guest facilitator, Ronald Porter.
Weekly Watson Institute master course with guest facilitator, Ronald Porter.
Ja'dan Johnson, student
Prospective student with family posing in front of Fighting Knights cutouts.
Prospective student and family enjoying their tour of Lynn University.
Saylor Rogers, student
Christine E. Lynn University Center
Welcome to the Christine E. Lynn University Center.
Charlotte Jerdak, staff member

View more