The Chancellor Green rotunda is normally a cozy sanctuary on a Saturday morning, the ideal place to curl up with some reading. But on this early November autumn day, the place is abuzz. Princeton banners representing the most recent 10 graduating classes ring the second-floor railing, and down below, scores of orange-and-black clad alumni are huddled over their laptops, juggling conversations on their cell phones.
On Nov. 3, more than 140 young alumni volunteers returned to Princeton for Annual Giving (AG) BootCamp, where recent grads (from the classes of 2009 to 2018) call, text, and Snapchat their classmates to ask them to make a gift to Annual Giving. The one-day event helps alumni hone their volunteer peer-to-peer fundraising skills and gives them an opportunity to give back to the University.
“The energy of that room is really something unique and special,” says Michael Monagle ’09, who’s leading the 10th reunion campaign for his class. “People are sending emails, talking on the phone, making videos to send out. If you walked into that room, you would never think that people were asking classmates for money — because it feels too fun.”
This year, the young “BootCampers” raised 2,407 total gifts — a record tally that topped last year's effort by 31 percent — and the Class of 2018 alone, just six months after graduation, contributed 449 donations.
Unrestricted gifts to Annual Giving go directly into the University’s operating budget for the benefit of Princeton’s students and faculty. These flexible funds directly support Princeton’s educational mission, enabling the University to stay at the forefront of teaching and research, and to ensure the affordability of a Princeton education for all admitted students.The 2017-18 Annual Giving campaign raised $69.6 million, with 55.7 percent of undergraduate alumni participating.
It’s the passion of volunteers across generations that make results like those of last year’s AG campaign possible. At AG BootCamp, Princeton’s youngest alumni come from near and far to give back to the University.
“The experience of being a student at Princeton engenders in many of us a deep love for the school and appreciation for the opportunities we were given there, “ says Sarah Wiley ’13, who made it a priority to attend BootCamp even when she was living in Beijing. Generous financial aid helped make the Princeton experience possible for her, she says, and “BootCamp is a chance to celebrate those sentiments, and ensure that they will be inspired in students for generations to come.”
Zach Beecher ’13 came to the 2016 BootCamp shortly before a military deployment to Iraq. “BootCamp was a great excuse be in a place I love with people I love, and to take stock before I headed off overseas,” says the former Army captain, who is now studying for his master’s degree at Cambridge. “The Princeton network and the group of friends I made here have come to feel like family. They are all quite keen on coming back and enabling others to have the same experience that we had.”
At BootCamp, the emphasis of the outreach is on connecting with classmates and encouraging them to participate in AG. A frequently made gift amount is $20.17 or some other 20-and-change figure that reflects class years.
“Every donation matters and I think that sort of attitude encourages people to want to give more over time,” says Grace Riccardi ’14, who has attended BootCamp every year since her graduation.
Some healthy class competition doesn’t hurt the effort either. “We sit under our class banner in the main rotunda in Chancellor Green, right next to the other classes,” says John Monagle ’12, who joined his older brother Michael as a BootCamp volunteer. “There’s a fun sense of rivalry, but it’s all in the spirit of camaraderie.”
Sometimes, that rivalry and comradery can be equally contagious to those at the other end of the call. “People know why you're calling — in fact, they feel overlooked if they're not called,” says Riccardi. “The best is when I call someone who happens to be sitting among a bunch of other Princetonians, and they all try to out-donate each other. It makes my job much easier.”
Unlike an actual military boot camp, Princeton volunteers are granted leave on Sunday morning. They’ve trained and honed their fundraising chops, inspired many of their classmates to give to support Annual Giving, and reconnected with their Princeton roots.
On Monday, in the breaking light of a new week of classes, Princeton students again occupy the nooks of the Chancellor Green rotunda, quietly poring over assigned reading and writing papers. It’s a scene made just a little more possible by the work of alumni volunteers who populated this room for AG Bootcamp — and who recently had the same opportunities to study at Princeton.
See more images from the 2018 AG BootCamp.
There are many ways ways to stay connected to Princeton through volunteer work. If you're interested in volunteering for Annual Giving, contact Princeton University Advancement at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 609-258-3373.