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A different kind of gift request

When Professor Vesa Puttonen turned fifty, he asked for donations to the School of Business rather than gifts for himself.
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Professor of Finance Vesa Puttonen organised a big party in the summer for his fiftieth birthday, but let the guests know that he didn’t want gifts.

‘Now, at the age of fifty, I already have everything that I need,’ Mr Puttonen says.

At the end of the celebration, Mr Puttonen told the guests that they have the opportunity to participate in Aalto University’s fundraising campaign by making a donation to the School of Business.

‘I said that if you’re willing to give towards this, I promise to match your giving all the way up to €10 000. In the end, the donations from the guests came to well over ten thousand. '

Donating is paying back

In Mr Puttonen’s opinion, donating to the university is a good way to express gratitude to the place of learning that has helped one to succeed in life.

‘I think it is reasonable to give money back. The School of Business has been very significant for my career and my life; I have been working here since the 1990s. I wanted to show how much I appreciate this school. It’s a question of having a culture of positively paying back.’

Mr Puttonen believes that this kind of culture does not have the same long-standing history in Finland as it does in, for example, the United States, but things are developing in a positive direction.

‘People are gradually beginning to participate in fundraising, although it is still generally thought that Finns pay a lot of taxes and it is then the government’s responsibility to maintain Finland’s education system.’

The Government’s share of university funding is shrinking, however, and donations are needed more and more. The goal of Aalto University’s fundraising campaign is to raise €20 million by the end of June 2017. At the moment the University has raised a little over €10 million.

‘Compared internationally, the sums are very small, but every euro still counts.’

Donations increase autonomy

In Mr Puttonen’s opinion, it is great that the state still provides a significant amount of university funding. But donations are needed nevertheless, because they strengthen universities’ autonomy.

‘If we were one hundred percent dependent on state funding, we would have less control over the development of teaching and research. The direction would be set by the Minister of Education, who would be representing different parties at different times.’

Donating is also about taking a social stand:

‘If I value the fact that we have financially sustainable business schools that are themselves able to make their own decisions, then it is worth donating,’ Mr Puttonen concludes.

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