Every time a bell rings, a tiger gets its stripes.
A vintage Princeton cheerleader megaphone that once belonged to George Bailey himself, James Stewart ’32, was dusted off and given new life in Chancellor Green rotunda on Saturday, Nov. 2, as bells rang in the background to evoke the spirit of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
The bells celebrated every Annual Giving (AG) gift from a Princeton alum during AG BootCamp, a one-day fundraising event powered by 89 volunteers from the classes of 2010 to 2019. Alumni connected with distant friends on FaceTime and secured AG donations via Venmo, but an equally notable communication device may have been the Princeton megaphone in the hands of Kirk Unruh ’70, recording secretary for University Advancement, as he inspired the dedicated volunteers to rally their classmates to give.
Volunteers raised 1,496 total AG gifts in a single day. AG fundraising is crucial to the University because those gifts directly support Princeton’s educational mission, enabling the University to stay at the forefront of teaching and research, and to ensure affordability for all admitted students. Last year’s AG campaign raised $68.6 million, with 55.4 percent of undergraduate alumni participating.
“The dollars we raise through AG provide the very kernel of flexibility that allows Princeton to be Princeton,” said Chris Olofson ’92, a vice chair of the Annual Giving committee who served on a panel of alumni who welcomed the BootCamp volunteers at the start of the day.
AG BootCamp began more than a decade ago as an effort to encourage recent graduates to develop the habit of giving back to the University — at any amount. The first event attracted just a score of volunteers, but it has evolved over time.
This year, senior volunteers from the Annual Giving Committee joined young alumni through the day in one-hour sessions that were a combination of mentoring and cheerleading. “We’ve never done that before,” said Anthony Pappenfus ’13, who remembers that his first BootCamp consisted of just 25 people gathered at Palmer House. “It’s really impressive, the amount of work and effort that goes into this weekend.”
On Saturday, Chancellor Green was dressed up in school spirit, with orange and black Princeton class banners hanging from the balcony and a long table covered with Princeton incentive prizes to be claimed for raising gifts — from fuzzy Tiger slippers to scarves to hoodie sweatshirts. “Everything is black and orange,” said Cassie Crifase ’17, a medical student at the University of Wisconsin. “My whole closet is orange and black so this weekend gives me an opportunity to put it all on at the same time. It’s so much fun.”
Part of that spirit is the combination of fellowship and competition that comes naturally to Princeton alumni. Classes competed against each other to raise the most AG gifts, while guest hosts like Unruh encouraged participants to tally the most gifts during their allotted hour, and classmates reached by phone vied to be the most generous contributor from their respective class.
In addition to fundraising to support the next generation of Princeton students who will follow them, BootCamp is an opportunity for young alumni to return to campus and reconnect with classmates, both in person at Chancellor Green and via phone as part of the AG effort. “I would describe it as a mini-reunion,” said Matt Pugliese ’14, an AG BootCamp veteran who took a red-eye flight from Los Angeles in order to attend. “We get to call as many as 100 of our best friends in one morning. That’s my favorite part of it. It really is nice to catch up with people.”
Hilary Bernstein ’14 came back to campus from Duke University, where she’s working on her MBA. “Before my last BootCamp, I urged one of
my friends to attend,” she said. “I hadn’t seen her since graduation and she hadn’t been back to campus since graduation. She came and rekindled her attachment to Princeton, so that was really rewarding for me.”
Since Annual Giving is about perpetuating the experiences and opportunities that Princeton provides to the next generation of Tigers, BootCamp leverages alumni shared history to enhance a place that means so much to so many.
“At this point in my life, I think the biggest investment I can make is my time,” said Jasmeene Burton-Martin ’19. “I think [giving to AG] is just a really beautiful thought because we get nothing out of it but the satisfaction of knowing that somebody else is having similar transformative life experiences in a place that is dear to us.”
To volunteer for Annual Giving, email firstname.lastname@example.org.