This article is more than 4 years old

Giving on a plate: a novel alumni fundraising drive

Paul Greatrix has details of an exciting new way to raise much needed funds for a university.
This article is more than 4 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

A recent report in the Star in Malaysia noted that a scheme had been agreed between the Education and Transport ministries to allow public universities to sell personalised number plates to alumni in order to raised funds:

The Education Minister said this would be a form of additional funding for the universities.
“Through a JPJ collaboration with the universities, we will try to issue and sell number plates. For example, as a graduate of UM (Universiti Malaya), I want a number plate UM1000, or UM2322.
“So we will pay JPJ, while half goes to the university,” he said on Thursday (July 19) during a question-and-answer session on education that was organised by the Karangkraf Media Group.
“If the graduates and alumni don’t help your alma maters, who else will?” he said.
Dr Maszlee said he had guaranteed the universities that their funding would not be cut, but at the same time, there will be no guarantees of additional funding for them.

It’s certainly an interesting way to raise funds but as yet it’s not clear if it has taken off in Malaysia.

The approach is commonplace in the US of course where you can easily find a number plate to express your support for your alma mater. For example, Lehigh has this offer:

Show Your Lehigh University Pride!

Now available! Pennsylvania and Maryland Alumni License Plates! Offer currently available to Pennsylvania and Maryland residents only. If you live in another state and would like to help us get Lehigh license plates off the ground in your state, please call 866-758-ALUM. We’ll continue to collect names until we have the number we need for your state.Show every driver on the road that you’re Lehigh for Life, with a specialty Lehigh license plate! The plate proudly displays the Lehigh emblem, along with the words Lehigh University Alumni.

However, not every fundraising campaign seems to have taken off and the University of Massachusetts, for example, has experienced rather slow sales for its plates:

Since the University of Massachusetts specialty plates debuted in 2013 to raise money for the school’s alumni association, the campaign has resulted in sales of only 1,554 plates. The alumni group last month began giving away the plates as it faces an October deadline to double the number of plate holders or be forced to scrap the program.
The plate, which features the school mascot and the message “You were. You are. UMass,” isn’t the only specialty plate puttering along in the slow lane. Those touting the Basketball Hall of Fame and the state’s Blackstone Valley region also have seen lackluster sales.

In addition to providing some people with plates at no charge, the alumni association is enlisting the athletics department, student affairs, and other campus groups to tout them. The group’s executive director, JC Schnabl, defends the initiative.
“This plate program has put the university out there in a way that we could have only dreamed about,” Schnabl said.
The goal of specialty plates, which cost drivers an extra $40 every two years, is to make money for the nonprofits and other organizations they advertise. UMass’s plates so far have garnered about $85,000 for the college, the lowest of all current specialty plates, according to Registry of Motor Vehicles data.

There is clearly fund-raising potential here. However I don’t know that our rules in the UK allow for such number plate innovation.

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