Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Giving to IIT Kanpur

About 1000 students are about to graduate from IIT Kanpur in the next couple of months. Most of them, I would guess, would have enjoyed their stay at IIT Kanpur and would have positive feelings about their soon-to-be alma mater. They have expressed those feelings through a campaign to give a graduating batch gift to IIT Kanpur, which I believe has been fairly successful. Would this be a one-time effort, or could we expect them to keep giving in future.

The past experience has been that very few alumni give gifts. There are many reasons for this. IIT Kanpur does not approach them properly (or not at all). The lack of trust in how the money will be spent. Difficulty in the process of giving, and so on. All these are issues which the new Dean of Resources and Alumni will have to deal with. But there is one reason that I want to address today. A lot of people say that they don't have enough to give. That a small amount is meaningless and a big amount is not affordable.

That a small amount is meaningless is a wrong notion. There are many activities in the Institute that are supported by small gifts - like support for international conference travel, which is extremely important for recruiting good graduate students. Also, it needs to be understood that most alumni will be able to give only small gifts, and if we actually get those small gifts from a large alumni base, we can actually march towards excellence at a faster pace. Even more importantly, these small gifts allow us to be in touch with you, to engage you and seek your help in multitude of ways. Can you influence your company to come for the placement at IIT Kanpur. Can you help a couple of students get a summer internship. Can you visit us and give a talk to our students. Can you mentor them. The list is endless. While the alumni relation should not be transactional in nature, a transaction helps in keeping that bond. Further, alumni funds make sure that the level of accountability in the Institute go up substantially. With the government money, we tend to be little less serious. If the scholarships are not distributed this month, and instead are given out next month, heavens will not fall. At least the Ministry will not ask questions. But alumni will, and there is really no reason for that delay. So your funds actually will cause significant improvement in the internal processes of the Institute.

And I can tell from my own experience (I have been giving upwards of 1 percent of all my income every year) that it feels good when you receive a thank you letter from your alma mater. Most of us would be giving small and big gifts to causes that we consider are important. And giving a small gift (like one percent) is not an issue of affordability for most, but an issue of priority, even for someone who has just earned his first month salary. And while I can not insist that your alma mater be a high priority for you, I certainly hope that it will be. Remember that your gift is extremely important to your alma mater in maintaining its excellence and continue to provide quality education to future students.

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