Faced with one of the most challenging fundraising environments anyone can remember, colleges and universities are appealing to donors to help meet the swelling demand for financial aid, reports the New York Times. Using such demand "as a fundraising tool totally makes sense in this environment," said Richard J. Krasney, a wealth manager and philanthropy adviser. "More than ever, people want to know that their money is being used to address current needs." Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., has increased its financial aid budget for the coming school year by 7.5 percent, to $21.5 million, a point its fundraisers are making to donors. "The incoming student body for the fall of 2009 will have higher financial needs than in the past," said Clay Ballantine, Hampshire’s chief advancement officer. "I tell donors these are excellent students and we want to take financial concerns out of their decision-making process, and we’re looking to you to provide a gift that will help us do that."

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