Craig Enenstein WG95 remembers the moment during Reunion in May when the Class of 1995’s dinner bash reached what he called “maximum velocity.” A class member pulled him aside and pledged $56,000.
“I stopped the party and told everybody,” says Enenstein, founder and CEO of the private equity firm Corridor Capital in Los Angeles. The room broke out in cheer, and perhaps even a tear or two.
The class ended up delivering $1.07 million in cash and pledges, blowing by the previous record for a Reunion year of $881,821 by the Class of 1985 for its 25th reunion. They also exceeded (an understatement) their own previous performance; that $1.07 million figure represents a 2,015 percent increase over their 15th Reunion giving total, and their participation level represents a 306 percent boost (from 100 to 306 alumni giving).
What propelled the Class of 1995? The confluence of a strengthening economy? Overachievers at the height of their earning powers two decades removed from graduation?
Beyond the record numbers was a long-term vision of how to engage classmates, and Enenstein senses, too, that the class grasped its responsibility to give back to an institution that has given them so much in terms of brand prestige, global exposure, intellectual challenge, and career opportunities and successes.
“If you feel good about the School and you feel it’s given to you, think about giving back to the students in the school today, who benefit you as you benefited in the past,” was the pitch, as summed up by Margarita Brose WG95, principal of her own financial services consulting company in Virginia who co-led the Reunion volunteer committee with Enenstein.
One tactical key to a successful Reunion campaign, Enenstein says, is to have a very large reunion committee: 50 people instead of the usual 10 or 15. The larger the committee, the more people there are to take ownership of organizing classmates split along demographic lines or professional interests.
Another tip for classes looking to dare match the Class of 1995’s Reunion giving: Invite members of the class to speak on panels during the actual weekend. Among the luminaries of the Class of 1995 who spoke at reunion were Pauline Brown WG95, chairman of LVMH North America, and Janet Cowell C90 G95 WG95, state treasurer of North Carolina.
Maybe the Class of 1995 was also lucky to have Enenstein, who has turned Reunion giving into an expertise. He has been involved with Class of 1995 fundraising for many years, as far back as his five-year event, and he served as chairman of the Wharton Alumni Executive Board.
“Not every class has a Craig, but every class has some motivational colleague to inspire them,” Brose says.