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The Impact of Matching Gift Programs on Employee Engagement

December 26th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Information

Philanthropy is a core value of many Corporations in America today. CEOs and corporate leaders see this as part of their commitment to society as well as a valuable benefit for their employees. It’s a way to give something back to employees and at the same time, support causes that are important to them. An important consideration for implementing, maintaining or expanding a matching gift programshould be its impact on Employee Engagement. Matching Gifts and Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement is typically defined as the extent to which employee commitment, both emotional and intellectual, exists relative to accomplishing the work, mission and vision of the organization. Engaged employees work with passion and feel a strong connection to their company. Unfortunately the converse is also true. Disengaged employees feel distant from their organization and generally do not view their connection to the employer as anything more than a job. They are less likely to commit time and effort to help the organization succeed. Studies show that disengaged employees are less productive than engaged employees.

A key driver of Employee Engagement has been reported to be an employee’s perception of the organization’s values. Without a positive feeling about the values of the organization, employee engagement will likely remain low. At a time when Employee Engagement is on the decline and corporations are depicted as greedy and insensitive, a well designed matching gift program can help companies to show their employees they care and have shared values. While this is not the sole driver of engagement, it is nonetheless a contributing factor, and an important one.

Click here to access information on six companies that do a great job engaging employees through their corporate giving programs.

Difficult economic times have negatively impacted fundraising and donation efforts of all kinds, including corporate matching gift programs. During the latest recession, many companies reduced, suspended or eliminated their donation activities. In improving economic times, these programs often expand in number and magnitude. So the rebound in the economy bodes well for non-profits and provides employers an opportunity to better connect with their employees. For instance, did you know Apple recently instituted a new employee matching gift program where the company annually matches up to $10,000 in donations per employee?

In looking at effective matching gift programs we find several commonalities:

  • First they are easily understood and communicated to employees.The Three Keys to Designing Effective Employee Matching Gift Programs
  • Second they should be easy for the corporation to administer, and
  • Third they should be flexible enough to be utilized by employees in their desire to support non-profits and causes of their choosing.
  • An alternative approach is to construct the matching gift program in a way that garners and encourages support for causes that the organization chooses to champion. With this approach, corporate values are emphasized and reinforced for employees who share those values. Conversely it can have less of a positive impact on employee engagement as it limits their choices to areas that the company values. This would be the case where a corporation focuses its matching gifts program exclusively in areas like education for example.

In light of the considerations discussed above, companies seeking to positively impact employee engagement should consider implementing a matching corporate gift program that is broad in scope, easy to communicate and geared to demonstrate the shared values of the company and employees.

Corporations interested in implementing or modifying their matching gift program can examine features of other organization’s programs through Double the Donation’s website. Nonprofit entities can visit this webpage to learn more about how they can increase fundraising for their organization by tapping into the millions of dollars available through corporate matching gift programs.

Double the Donation

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Direct Mail Now Integrated With Google

December 20th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Information

Back in March of this year I wrote a story entitled Direct Mail: Alive And Kicking. It would appear that direct mail is not only alive and kicking, it’s going “high tech.”

Well, in a manner of speaking.

English: SVG version of the Google name

SVG version of the Google name (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


If you’re a proponent of traditional advertising mediums like direct mail,email marketing, print, or radio, it’s easy to feel like you are being left out of the technological loop. After all, it seems there is a leap forward every other day for sexy marketing venues like pay per click, search engine optimization, and social media, and so on.

On one hand, you like traditional media exactly because it DOES NOT change every other week. It’s proven, and the results are (somewhat) predictable. This is good. You don’t want to go throwing money at some new fangled marketing scheme and then sit back, fingers crossed, hoping it produces a return.

On the other hand, innovation is good. Innovation is GREAT, actually. Why settle for doing things the same old way when there is an alternative available that offers a BETTER return for LESS money?

And it’s exactly this innovation that many business owners feel they are missing out on if they stick to their traditional marketing guns.

But is this really the case?

As it turns out – no. Case in point: the direct mail industry is currently undergoing a massive shift in the way it handles clients’ campaigns. Gone are the days of, “Your cards are in the mail… Good luck.” Here to stay are the days of, “Your cards are in the mail. They will arrive in prospects’ mailboxes on the 23rd. Go to this web address to see how many responses you receive, and to listen to recordings of your sales calls. Also, we took care of your online follow-up for you. Don’t worry about that.”

Yes, it’s a little bit of a mouthful. But that last part – about the online follow-up – that’s the part that is revolutionary in the industry. The other things like tracking your mail and recording phone responses are advances, but they’ve been around for a while.

Direct Mail + Google – How It Works

We live in a world where the front door to virtually every business is their website. This is as true today of dentists and landscapers as it is of online retailers. If your website stinks, chances are your marketing will stink too. The direct mail industry is figuring this out, which is why many of the hands-on, innovative direct mail houses have started to offer web design services to complement their bread and butter.

This, in and of itself, is an innovation — and a huge one. But not the latest…

What happens when a prospect receives an intriguing offer on a postcard, goes online to read more about the deal, gets distracted, and never goes back to the business’ site? Used to be they were gone forever, but not anymore.

Google introduced a product called Remarketing for just this purpose. Google Remarketing is a program that is connected to Google Adwords, and it works like this:

  1. A business adds the Google Remarketing Code to their website
  2. A prospect comes to the site, but leaves before taking the action the business wants them to take (whether that is completing a transaction, filling out a form, or whatever)
  3. Google knows this (thanks to the code)
  4. Google displays specific follow-up advertisements to that prospect as the continue to cruise other sites, reminding them to go back to the business’ site and finish what they started
  5. The business doesn’t pay unless the prospect actually clicks the ad

The direct mail industry saw this as an opportunity to innovate and get better returns for their clients, so they bundled Google Remarketing in with standard direct mail services like postcards.

This is a small (but not insignificant) step for direct mail providers and an ENORMOUS step for direct mail marketers. Think about it this way: let’s say that for every person that calls you off of your direct mail piece, another person goes to your website, but decides not to call. This isn’t very hard to imagine. Those web visitors used to mean absolutely nothing to you. They were as useless as the person who threw away your ad without looking at it. NOW, that person is a legitimate lead being courted online by follow-up ads, just like your phone leads are courted by emails or phone calls.

It’s very cool for sure and one of the best companies out there who have seamlessly incorporated direct mail with Google is who offer what they refer to as “Direct Mail 2.0®” with the declaration that “the old way of handling direct mailing services is ancient history.”

So, yes, traditional marketing methods can innovate, even if they don’t get the airtime that sparkly new options get. Yes, the world of direct mail has finally integrated with the great Google. And YES, the next big thing in direct mail is integration with Google Remarketing.

At least until the next thing comes along.

Like feeding tuna fish mayonnaise. (very obscure movie reference so kudos to anyone who picks up my very vague remark)

Steve Olenski

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Fiscal Cliff compromise in works? Not great news for charitable givers leaking out…

December 19th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in In The Spotlight, News and Updates

I saw it – and then it disappeared.  Early this morning, the Yahoo front page news story about a potential Fiscal Cliff compromise had it and then when I went back later, it was gone.

The piece I read around 6:30 am on Yahoo mentioned that the compromise would likely include a 28% cap on deductions and a $3.5 million estate tax exemption with a 45% top estate tax rate.  Ouch on the 28% deduction cap; o.k. on the estate tax compromise. (Note: it mysteriously disappeared and can’t be found in any web posting – maybe it was revealing too much, maybe not factually correct)

I have been predicting on this blog that a deduction cap will be slipped in any Fiscal Cliff compromise.  It’s an easy target.  Who is going to complain? Maybe your donors won’t notice that they just created a surtax of $.05 to $.10 per charitable dollar given for itemizers?  On a $1,000 charitable gift, that is about $50 to $100 more tax dollars your donor will be paying.  On $10,000, that is $500 to $1,000 more in tax.  On a charitable gift of $100,000, that is a $5,000 to $10,000 penalty.  On the $1 million dollar giver, that is a whopping $50,000 to $100,000 surcharge on their charitable giving.  We are talking a lot of money for the biggest donors.

No one can really tell what this may do to charitable giving (besides boosting 2012 Donor Advised Funding giving and gift acceleration in general).  But, it is still bad news for philanthropy.

Top 10 Reasons Why Capping Deductions is a Bad Idea

With the Fiscal Cliff possibly being averted as we speak, it is very easy to see some tampering with deductions – an easy target because they represent easy numbers.  By “easy numbers”, I mean that Congress always has to make their numbers add up – with as little political capital being used  as possible.

And, by lowering the value of deductions or capping deductions, Congress would essentially be reducing the value of charitable income tax deductions for those in higher income tax brackets (among other areas formerly favored/encouraged like mortgage interest). While it looks like easy money to politicians, there are so many reasons why this idea stinks.

Here are my top ten reasons why Congress should not tamper with deductions (particularly charitable deductions):

  1. Lowering the value of charitable deductions is basically a new tax on charitable givers – if you are going to raise taxes, why not raise taxes on non-charitable givers?  At least charitable givers are putting their money to good use feeding hungry people, educating the young, saving the environment….
  2. On that vain, why not at least raise taxes equally for charitable and non-charitable givers – again, why penalize those who are trying to do good with their money!
  3. People who give to charity (and itemize) are supporting the public good – things that the government would have to provide if not for their charitable contributions!  Ok Congress, you might save a few dollars but by messing with charitable deductions, who knows the new costs you might incur (in jobs and service losses) if your plan really causes a drop in charitable giving.
  4. The idea of offering incentives for charitable giving is to encourage and reward people to support the public good – again, stuff that the government might have to offer if nonprofits weren’t providing it.  By reducing the value of the charitable deduction, aren’t you discouraging people from giving to charity?  Sure you want to do that?
  5. America is by far the most charitable nation in the world – hands down.  You want us to be like Europe?
  6. Nonprofit fundraising is a $300 billion a year industry (according to Giving U.S.A.) – that is about the amount raised each year ($200 million+ from individuals).  That money is not only going to support lot’s of good causes that the government now doesn’t need to provide; that money actually supports thousands upon thousands of jobs in the nonprofit sector – many of which will be lost if your tampering significantly reduced those revenue figures.
  7. Be honest – don’t raise taxes by reducing the value of formerly encouraged behavior because people won’t notice until next April or ever.  Come on, be straight with us and treat us fairly.
  8. Bean-counting – the way accountants find ways to “raise” revenue by cutting expenses – is the antithesis of growth.  You don’t grow by cutting corners – you just make your numbers look good in the short term (something corporate America loves to do).  Cutting the value of  the charitable deduction is bean-counting. Yes, in the short term, your numbers might look  better.  In the long run, you might do significant damage to the nonprofit sector and cause the government to have provide more services.
  9. Do you want to encourage positive behavior through the tax code or not?  Do you want encourage home ownership or not (mortgage deduction gets hit with the deduction cap, too)?  Clearly, the government has had an interest in promoting various things through tax benefits – now you are going to stealth-fully pull them out to make your numbers look good.
  10. Readers – please write in your own comments!

Planned Giving Advisors, LLC

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Make an End of Year Push to Double Donations

December 18th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in How Not For Profits

Did you know that most companies with employee matching gift programs will match donations made many months earlier? For instance, if your donors work for AdobeElectronic ArtsGeneral Electric, they have twelve months from the date of the donation to request a matching gift.

Why is it Important to Understand Matching Gift Submission Deadlines?

Has your organization considered a final end of the year communication to promote matching gifts? We aren’t suggesting your organization wait until the end of the year to promote matching gifts, but don’t miss out on an extra opportunity to promote matching gifts.

An end of the year email highlighting matching gifts & typical deadline dates is an effective way to raise additional money from individuals who have already donated to your organization. This serves as a great last minute reminder to donors who may have put off submitting a matching gift request for whatever reason.

Click here to view a sample end of year matching gift email that your organization could send out.

By incorporating Double the Donation’s database of matching gift programs directly into the appeal, you make it easy for donors to determine whether their donation is eligible to be matched. When possible, Double the Donation also directs donors directly to the necessary forms to simplify the process.

Matching Gift Submission Deadlines:

Although program specifics vary by company, most companies adhere to one of the following three standards for matching gift submission deadlines:

  1. End of the calendar year (December 31st)
  2. A set number of months from the date of the donation. The standard is one year though it can range from one to twelve months from the donation date.
  3. End of January or February in the year following when the donation was made.

What this Means for Nonprofits:

Your organization should promote matching gifts to all donors at the end of year! You’ve already done the hard work of getting your donors to open up their wallets. Sending out a final appeal is a fairly low effort way to encourage matching gift participation and tap into corporate giving dollars which are about to go unclaimed.

Adam Weinger

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White House, nonprofit groups battle over charitable deductions

December 17th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in In The Spotlight

The White House and the nation’s most prominent charities are embroiled in a tense behind-the-scenes debate over President Obama’s push to scale back the nearly century-old tax deduction on donations that the charities say is crucial for their financial health.

In a series of recent meetings and calls, top White House aides have pressed nonprofit groups to line up behind the president’s plan for reducing the federal deficit and averting the year-end “fiscal cliff,” according to people familiar with the talks.

In part, the White House is seeking to win the support of nonprofit groups for Obama’s central demand that income tax rates rise for upper-end taxpayers. There are early signs that several charities, whose boards often include the wealthy, are willing to endorse this change.

But the White House is also looking to limit the charitable deduction for high-income earners, and that has prompted frustration and resistance, with leaders of major nonprofit organizations, such as the United Way, the American Red Cross and Lutheran Services in America, closing ranks in opposing any change to the deduction.

“It’s all castor oil,” said Diana Aviv, president of Independent Sector, an umbrella group representing many nonprofits. “And the members of the nonprofit sector I represent don’t want any part of it. It’s a medicine we’re not willing to drink.”

The dispute is the latest in a long-standing struggle over the popular tax provision, which allows people to deduct charitable donations from their taxable income. The battle is playing out at the highest levels of government and in the corridors of K Street.

Since Obama first proposed to lower the deduction in 2009, more than 60 nonprofit groups have spent at least $21 million lobbying Congress and the White House to preserve it, lobbying records show. Although nonprofit officials characterize the effort as grass roots, including a recent “Lobby Day” during which the groups’ staffers donated their time and descended on Capitol Hill, at least 25 organizations have hired Washington area lobbying firms.

The lobbying by some of the biggest players in the philanthropy world has intensified in recent weeks amid spreading concern over whether the charitable deduction could be affected by a deal to avoid the automatic spending cuts and tax increases set to kick in Jan. 1. Nonprofit group leaders say lowering or eliminating the deduction would reduce giving by wealthy donors. Studies have shown that people would donate less if the deduction were reduced, but estimates of the effect vary widely.

“It would be devastating,” said Jatrice Martel Gaiter, executive vice president for external affairs at Volunteers of America, which has paid Patton Boggs — Washington’s most lucrative lobby shop — nearly $200,000 to lobby on the charitable deduction and other issues in the past year. “Of course people want to say they are giving out of the goodness of their hearts, and of course they are, but the tax deduction makes our hearts larger and our goodness even better.”

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Student Facebook Page Captures World’s Attention

December 17th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in In The Spotlight, News and Updates

A Facebook page that lets Queen’s students anonymously compliment one another is capturing media attention around the world. Queens U Compliments, which currently boasts more than 4,850 ‘friends,’ invites users to write positive comments to one another in a bid to combat bullying and build a supportive student community.

The story has been picked up by a number of international publications, including Time Magazine, the U.K’s Daily MailNews Track Indiathe Zimbabwe Star, and China National News. The media attention has spawned similar Facebook pages at nearly 100 other schools across North America.

The students behind the initiative have been surprised by its popularity.

“It really just took off on its own,” says Jessica Jonker (Music/Con Ed ’14). “We never imagined it would get as big as it is now.”

Ms Jonker started Queens U Compliments with her roommates, Rachel Albi (History/Con Ed ’14), Erica Gagne (Music ’14) and Amanda Smurthwaite (English/Con Ed ’14). Feeling discouraged by chilly fall breezes and an increasingly heavy workload in September, they decided they needed a positive project they could run out of their living room. Inspired by a similar initiative at a high school, the foursome started the Facebook page.

“While it’s common to equate anonymity with negativity and cyber bullying on social media, we wanted to encourage the Queen’s community to share kind words for one another,” says Ms Albi . “The site’s popularity exemplifies the kind of peer support in place on campus.”

The students, who admit Facebook is their favourite website for procrastinating as they prepare for exams, say that so far they’ve received lots of positive feedback on the site.

They’re currently worried about how quickly they are approaching the 5,000-friend cap imposed by the social networking site and want to ensure that if they grow the project, they are able to maintain anonymity.

For now, they’re focused on keeping everyone in the Queen’s community feeling complimentary.

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Employers Express Early Optimism for 2013 Hiring

December 12th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Information

Reston, Virginia — Uncertainty hangs above many of the world’s economies, but the job market for 2013 graduates, particularly those with graduate-level degrees, may be looking up, according to a survey of 201 employers conducted by the Graduate Management Admission Council.

The 2012 Year-End Poll of Employers finds 76 percent of employers expect to hire new MBA graduates in 2013. Just 69 percent of them hired class of 2012 graduates. Of the employers planning to hire MBAs in 2013, 56 percent plan to offer starting base salaries that keep pace with inflation (43 percent) or exceed it (13 percent).

“Employers recognize that employees with graduate business degrees are a wise investment when times are uncertain and they need talent that not only bring skills but agility to meet the changing demands of these times,” said Dave Wilson, president and CEO of GMAC, which administers the GMAT exam for graduate management programs worldwide.

Hiring projections for experienced direct-from-industry hires (86 percent, up from 83 percent hired last year) and new bachelor’s recipients (78 percent, down from 80 percent last year) remained relatively stable. The poll also found that demand for new graduates with graduate degrees in other business fields is smaller but growing:

  • 43 percent plan to hire master in management graduates (up from 33 percent)
  • 40 percent intend to hire master of accounting graduates (up from 32 percent)
  • 39 percent expect to hire master of finance graduates (up from 32 percent)
  • 46 percent plans to hire other specialized master’s degrees in business (up from 34 percent)

The outlook for internships looks strong in 2013, as well. Some 85 percent of the employers polled plan to offer student internships in 2013, with 70 percent planning to use undergraduate interns and 65 percent planning to use MBA interns. Although fewer companies offer internships to other masters-level students, those that do are likely to offer as many or more internships in 2013 than they did in 2012.

The 2013 outlook follows a hiring year that went as well as or better than expected for most companies. Between 85 and 97 percent of companies that planned to hire across each candidate type in 2012 actually made the hires, and most companies hired as many or more employees than they planned for each candidate type.

The 13th annual Year-End Poll of Employers includes responses from 201 employers at 182 companies worldwide, including 45 Fortune 500 companies. The poll prefaces GMAC’s annual Corporate Recruiters Survey, a more comprehensive survey of employers worldwide released in conjunction with the Global Management Education Graduate Survey, a student exit survey, each May.

The summary report is available at

Contact: Tracey Briggs, office: +1 (703) 668-9726; mobile: +1 (571) 243-1478;

About GMAC: The Graduate Management Admission Council ( is a non-profit education organization of the world’s leading graduate business schools and owner of the GMAT exam, accepted by more than 5,600 graduate business and management programs worldwide. GMAC is based in Reston, Virginia, and has regional offices in London, New Delhi and Hong Kong. The GMAT exam―the only worldwide standardized test designed expressly for graduate business and management programs―is available more than 250 days a year at more than 550 test centers in more than 110 countries. More information about the GMAT exam is available at Go to follow @GMACNewsCenter on Twitter.

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Trend in universities enlisting therapy dogs to combat students’ exam stress

December 12th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in In The Spotlight, News and Updates

A growing number of Canadian universities are arranging therapy dogs to come to campus as part of efforts to ease students’ stress during the final exam period. York University is bringing in a pair of St. John’s Ambulance trained therapy dogs to help students de-stress. McGill University’s library also welcomed a couple of pooches this week. As part of the University of Alberta Wellness Services’ Unwind Your Mind program, the institution’s Augustana Library invited a registered therapy dog and a prospective service dog to visit students. Yesterday the dog owned by Simon Fraser University’s health and counselling services director visited the Burnaby campus, and will be back on campus Monday. At Queen’s University, the Alma Mater Society runs “Critters on Campus” events, where students have the opportunity to interact with cats and dogs during a stressful part of the semester. York U News Release | YFile | CTV | Augustana Campus News | SFU iBlog | Queen’s AMS News Release

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DMA’s Nonprofit Federation Urges Congress to Protect Charitable Giving

December 5th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in In The Spotlight

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) is joining hundreds of nonprofit leaders December 4-5, 2012, in the nation’s capital to urge lawmakers to protect a 100-year-old American tradition of common-sense tax policies that encourage giving and help support critical programs and services for people in need.

Congress is seriously considering whether to retain, modify, or eliminate the charitable deduction. The potential result is the loss of billions of dollars, which would impede the important work that nonprofits do for the millions of Americans who rely on them.

The Charitable Giving Coalition, a group of more than 50 nonprofit, charitable and other organizations, is bringing together hundreds of frontline leaders to Washington, D.C. for “Protect Giving-D.C. Days” on December 4-5, 2012. DMA, through its nonprofit membership organization, the DMA Nonprofit Federation (DMANF) will be participating by reaching out to federal lawmakers and policymakers and their staff to encourage them to keep the charitable deduction intact. The effort will pierce the “inside-the-beltway” bubble with the realities communities are facing throughout America.

“Nonprofits across the country are focused on providing vital services and support during this tough economy, and this important event is meant to reiterate the vital role of charities for our nation. Protecting the charitable deduction is the right thing to do,” said Senny Boone, senior vice president, DMA Nonprofit Federation.

For more information, please contact Senny Boone, at

About the Nonprofit Federation of the DMA

The Nonprofit Federation of the Direct Marketing Association (DMANF) is the leading association for nonprofit organizations that use direct marketing (mail, online, email, telephone, social networking, mobile and more) to raise money.  For more than 25 years, the DMA Nonprofit Federation (and its predecessors) performs as an effective national advocate for nonprofits on postal rates and services, privacy & data protection, fundraising ethics & accountability, charitable registrations, and other key issues impacting nonprofit fundraising.  The DMANF leads the way in professional education, best practices, market intelligence and networking for its 400 member organizations.  In 2011, Americans and corporations gave over $300 billion to nonprofit organizations; most donations are the result of direct marketing.  For additional information on the Nonprofit Federation, its work, and its member benefits,; join us on Facebook; or follow us on Twitter.

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About Direct Marketing Association (DMA)

The Direct Marketing Association ( is the world’s largest trade association dedicated to advancing and protecting responsible data-driven marketing.  Founded in 1917, DMA represents thousands of companies and nonprofit organizations that use and support data-driven marketing practices and techniques.

In 2012, marketers — commercial and nonprofit —will spend $168.5 billion on direct marketing, which accounts for 52.7 percent of all ad expenditures in the United States.  Measured against total US sales, these advertising expenditures will generate approximately $2.05 trillion in incremental sales.  In 2012, direct marketing accounts for 8.7 percent of total US gross domestic product and produces1.3 million direct marketing employees in the US.  Their collective sales efforts directly support 7.9 million other jobs, accounting for a total of 9.2 million US jobs.

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Most Dangerous Lists

December 5th, 2012 | No Comments | Posted in Information


While colleges regularly complain about rankings that they don’t like (and boast about those where they do well), one publication’s list of “dangerous” colleges has renewed a debate over whether the data on which it was based reflect actual danger or safety levels, and whether any crime statistics alone can evaluate campus safety.

Business Insider published its list of the 25 “most dangerous colleges in America” last week — and the links and local newspaper articles started to spread. Then, facing considerable criticism from the California colleges that appeared on the top of the list, Business Insider calculated the most dangerous colleges in another way, while insisting that “we’re standing by” the first list. At the same time, some colleges that made the first list but not the second were issuing celebratory press releases. California State University at Fresno (No. 19 on the first list and absent from the second) issued a statement calling the first list and headline “unfounded.”

So what are the two lists? And are they a good measure of campus safety?

The first list was based on the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports. Campus officials note numerous problems with the FBI data. For starters, they only come from a minority of campuses (they are voluntarily submitted by several hundred colleges with sworn police officers). Perhaps more important, they include incidents reported off-campus, which may seem reasonable when talking about an adjacent area where many students live. But as the University of California at Los Angeles noted, its police officers include crime in reports about clinics and facilities throughout Los Angeles — and some of those are in areas of significant crime. The Westwood neighborhood where the vast majority of UCLA students live and where most professors teach has very low crime rates.

UCLA (No. 1 in the list based on the FBI reports) issued a news release with the headline “UCLA a dangerous campus? Don’t believe it,” with a detailed critique of the data.

Many of those who complained about the FBI data suggested that a more accurate measure would be from the statistics required by the Clery Act, the federal law that requires colleges and universities to report certain types of crimes. In its second ranking, Business Insider used the Clery data. And the publication said that this calculation is part of why it stands behind the original list. The Clery-based list “contains many of the same schools” as the FBI-based rankings, the publication noted.

True, but many of the colleges are in very different spots on the lists. UCLA is still on the second list, but at 19, not 1. The University of California at Berkeley is second on the first list and 10th on the second list. The university ranked as having the most crime on the Clery-based list (Howard University) doesn’t appear on the first list.

James E. Grant Jr., assistant vice chancellor for strategic communications of the University of California at Riverside (which made both lists), said he was bothered by an “intentionally inflammatory headline” that is now being “widely disseminated — right at the time families are deciding where to send their young scholars to college.”

Then there is the question of whether either list should be used, by itself, to judge colleges. S. Daniel Carter, director of the 32, the National Campus Safety Index of the VTV Family Outreach Foundation (a group of family members of victims and of survivors of the 2007 tragedy at Virginia Tech), said that “you cannot look at statistics in a vacuum and say that any colleges are the most dangerous. I think these lists do a disservice to the consumer.”

Carter said that he puts more stock in the Clery data than the FBI data because more colleges are included and there are more consistent definitions of what to report. But he said that his current work has convinced him that lists alone are problematic. He was hired by the families of Virginia Tech victims to find a way to look at both data, policies and policy enforcement to measure campus safety.
He said that policies and their enforcement are key to understanding relative levels of safety. A college that decides to enforce alcohol laws will see an increase in alcohol-related arrests, but may have its alcohol issues under more control than a college that is looking the other way and making few arrests or citations.

This concern extends to violent crime, he said. Many advocates for victims of sexual assault have noted that colleges have not been consistent in their responses to attacks. “Colleges that do a good job of supporting victims will tend to have higher numbers than colleges that don’t support victims,” Carter said.

Rankings based on crime reports alone send the wrong message, he said. “You are punishing the institutions that are actually doing something about it.”

Scott Jaschik

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