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The American Geophysical Union (AGU) brings many resources to bear on finding solutions to our world’s most pressing problems. Foremost are our members, who represent the full breadth of the Earth and space sciences. Aiding those members and other researchers in their work, our highly cited journals reflect the expansive range of cutting-edge research. Our meetings and conferences bring together the brightest minds to share critical new information with one another and to identify areas ripe for collaboration.

Fig. 1. Most of last year’s 4400 donors to AGU gave less than $50 (gray), providing only 8.6% of total funds received by the organization. The 2.2% of donors who gave more than $500 each (blue) contributed greater than half (53.80%) of the value of all 2014 donations.

With those resources, AGU

  • promotes the wise management of our planet based on scientific knowledge,
  • builds an inclusive global community of Earth and space scientists who share ideas and solve important problems,
  • gives decision makers and the general public sound scientific information to inform the debate on societal issues,
  • improves the scientific literacy of the next generation of citizens, and
  • develops a continuing flow of the highest-quality scientists to tackle the problems of the future.

Pressing Need

To enable these endeavors, AGU has revitalized its approach to development. Members and donors have stepped up to aid our work, but the need continues to grow.

Last year, our Voluntary Contribution Campaign raised nearly $400,000 to support programs and initiatives across AGU. A look at who contributed shows that AGU has a very strong base of donors. Those supporting AGU with gifts of $500 or more made up just over 2% of donors and contributed a total of nearly $200,000 (see Figure 1). Just 37 donors made gifts of $1000 or more in 2014, equating to 1 out of roughly every 1600 AGU members. Nearly 69% of our 4400 donors gave less than $50, totaling almost $32,000.

Even with more than 4000 donors, only 7% of AGU members supported AGU with charitable gifts in 2014. What’s more telling is that the number of donors has fallen at a significant rate since 2011, when there were nearly 7500 donors (see Figure 2).

Help us reverse this declining trend! Support AGU and make a difference today. The participation goal for 2015 is 12%, or 7200 donors.

Fig. 2. Following a decline in donor numbers since 2011, when 7500 AGU members donated to the organization, only 7% of members currently support AGU with charitable gifts. AGU has established a new goal for 2015 of 12% of members giving donations. Please support AGU with a gift of any size.

What Can You Do Now?

Supporting AGU programs makes a demonstrable difference in the lives and careers of our members and in the global understanding of scientific advancements and issues.

Just 37 donors made gifts of $1000 or more in 2014, equating to 1 out of roughly every 1600 AGU members.

Student Travel Grants support AGU’s student members as they attend and present at their first Fall Meeting. This experience opens the door to fruitful and long-lasting careers, feeding the talent pipeline and ensuring that the next generation of great scientists is well trained and ready for the field. Gifts of $500 and $1000 can fund one domestic or international student’s attendance, respectively, at a Fall Meeting.

The Mass Media Fellowship and Congressional Science Fellowship place highly qualified, accomplished scientists and engineers in assignments where they can learn about science communication or policy making and contribute their expertise to those areas. At reputable and well-known media outlets, Mass Media Fellows learn to communicate about science like professional journalists while contributing their expertise to news media coverage. In the offices of members of Congress or committees, Congressional Science Fellows enable more effective use of scientific knowledge in government and get firsthand experience in the use of technical information in policy decisions.

AGU’s 23 sections and focus groups create and facilitate opportunities for AGU members to network with colleagues in their field, honor luminaries, support the next generation by mentoring students and early-career scientists, and foster scientific discussion and collaboration among their affiliates.

The 2015 Challenge

Many individuals give, but at very modest levels. We challenge all members to consider at least a $50 contribution in 2015. We realize everyone has different financial situations—some can give more, others less—but we encourage all to make meaningful contributions to ensure the future of our organization and the next generation of Earth and space science leaders.

When you make a contribution, encourage others to contribute as well. If every donor encourages one colleague to follow suit, 2015 will be the most successful fundraising year in AGU’s history! To make your gift, visit

—Jeff Borchardt, Development Director, AGU; email:

Citation: Borchardt, J. (2015), Donors can help AGU climb to greater heights, Eos, 96, doi:10.1o29/2015EO038069. Published on 28 October 2015.

Text © 2015. The authors. CC BY-NC 3.0
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