Philanthropy: Trinity’s unseen revenue stream

In recent times, the role of philanthropy – often large donations made by individuals – has become a more and more important source of income to Trinity. But just who are these donors?

In recent times, the role of philanthropy – often large donations made by individuals – has become a more and more important source of income to Trinity. But just who are these donors?

Philanthropy is a relatively new – yet increasingly vital – word in the Irish lexicon. In the United States however it has long played a vital role in the funding of universities. With the emergence of large philanthropic organisations, such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Sir Anthony O’ Reilly Foundation it could be said that we are witnessing the “coming of age” of philanthropy.

Philanthropic giving has for many years been a way for the wealthy to support their favoured causes. In the last year alone Cornell University attracted over $500 million in alumni donations. It is also a method of securing funding from which Trinity has long benefited.

Many sources of income contribute to Trinity College’s funding, including money that comes from government agencies and independent trusts. However, without donations from philanthropists and alumni the College’s upkeep would be unsustainable.

Trinity’s private donors are varied and wide-ranging, including some from the UK, Europe and several anonymous ones from the US. One of the major donors to College, Martin Naughton, an entrepreneur who founded Glen Electric in 1973, donated a significant sum to Trinity and subsequently had the Naughton Institute named after him upon its completion in 2007. This building demonstrates what philanthropy can achieve and how it has grown as a practice over the last two decades. The Trinity Access Programme is another visible demonstration of the power of philanthropic donations.

As Trinity’s became more recognisable as an icon of a strong and prosperous Ireland, donors who were unconnected to the college itself donated of large sums to varied areas of interest, be it in the Arts and Humanities, Engineering, Science or Business faculties.

Naturally, there are also individual alumni who have interests in specific areas and it is at their discretion as to whether their donations are targeted at one particular project or dispersed around the college faculties in general. The recent “Save the Treasures of the Long Room” project, launched in 2005, is the most successful example to date of a fundraising endeavour undertaken by the Trinity Foundation. 3,000 alumni contributed, and €1.25 million was raised to clean the manuscripts and historic collection held within Trinity’s Old Library.

The Trinity Foundation was established in order to foster Trinity’s involvement with educational programmes in the fields of both outreach and research. Within the Trinity Foundation itself there are seventeen members of staff, with seven classified as major fundraisers within the unit.

The other role of the Foundation is to communicate with alumni worldwide in order to inform them of future projects. It also introduces networking schemes for alumni working abroad. The number of alumni within its “broad base” is over 60,000, and the Foundation aims to keep these graduates abreast of annual events and reunions. The Trinity Foundation is a different organisation to the TCD Association and Trust, as it is a registered charity that entitles the donors to tax breaks, whilst the TCD Association and Trust is the original fundraising arm of the college, established to provide administrative support for small project donations to the betterment of college life.

The Trinity Foundation also plays a important role in the student community and is actively involved in several student projects within college, including the Student Awards, Sports Scholarships, the Financial Hardship Fund and the TCD Association and Trust Bursaries. The Student Awards recognise the contribution of several students who contribute to college life in an exceptional fashion. These students are awarded a grant of €2,000 by the college.

Likewise, the Sports Scholarships are allocated to students who display excellence in various sports whilst representing the college and the Financial Hardship Fund gives assistance from the Trinity Foundation to students faced with financial difficulties during their time in college.

The TCD Association and Trust Bursaries are concerned with supporting the most tangible aspects of student life, such as in the societies, welfare and research. It also includes support for the Voluntary Tuition Programme, the Student Union Childcare Support and the Trinity Arts Festival to name just a few.

John Dillon, the Alumni Director in the Trinity Foundation, sees these endeavours as extremely important examples of how the Foundation publicises the positive nature of the work it does. “We want to raise awareness about the good things that are going on in the college for students while they’re here” he says.

Not only does the Foundation wish to perpetuate its good image within the student body, but also amongst the wider community. It hopes that the newly opened Science Gallery, which is now open to the public, will play an important role in reaching this target.

These aspects of the Trinity Foundation’s work are linked into the Bank of Ireland Trinity Affinity scheme, whereby Bank of Ireland donates €15 to the College at the outset of a Trinity branded credit card application. This programme, available to both current students and graduates, is makes it easier for people to donate to Trinity whilst studying at the university, and also to continue once they’ve left.

For every euro spent on the card itself, Bank of Ireland donates a certain percentage to the college in order to support various projects. The card appeal also lies in the fact that it comes with a picture of our beloved campanile, for those who are particularly nostalgic and promotes, as Dillon puts it, “the strong affinity that alumni have with the college.” The college is required to keep an account of all the donations that it receives throughout the course of a year. In order to do this the college must return a Donor Report to the government for sums that are both large, and more modest in size. The Donor Report must specify where within the college the money was spent and detail the specifics of what it was spent on. The benefits to the College that result from the donations are documented in Trinity Today magazine that the Foundation publishes for the alumni.

Philanthropy does not confine itself to funding, according to John Dillon, the Trinity Foundation’s Alumni Director. He points out that many graduates sit on the advisory boards, and are actively involved in helping the college achieve its aims. He is keen to stress that the Foundation is not merely concerned with the financial aid that alumni can give, but also with alumni volunteering their time and expertise.