I had no idea that alumni could not do this earlier, but contributing to departments is finally here! The article is as follows
The Board of Governors of IIT Kanpur has approved the creation of "Department Excellence Fund" in each department of the Institute.
Now any alumnus giving a gift to the Institute would have more options to specify for the use of his/her funds. Till now, an alumnus could specify the use of funds only if the gift was substantial, like setting up of a scholarship, or a chair, etc., or could contribute to the batch fund, or to a very small number of open campaigns at any point in time (like Prof. Sampath Chair). Most of the contributions went to the common pool of undesignated funds, which were used for excellence related projects across the Institute. Many alumni felt that an option to contribute to a specific department should be there, though one could still make an undesignated contribution to the Institute common pool.
This is also an attempt to involve departments in alumni relations. Departments typically have a closer and more personal contacts with alumni (through BTP/thesis supervisor, and other faculty members as well), and encouraging departments to use those contacts to build a strong relationship with alumni is certainly a need of the hour.
Whether this move will really bring alumni and institute closer, it will depend on both stake holders. If departments don't start reaching out to alumni to do fund-raising, alumni aren't going to designate their gifts for the departments. And if alumni continue to send their contributions to the common pool, departments won't feel encouraged to reach out to alumni. Some of us who have interacted with alumni in the past know how useful such interactions can be, not just for fund-raising but a large variety of support that these alumni can provide to us. And the Institute certainly understands that it needs to give this idea a strong push. And hence it has also promised to the departments that initial funds gifted by alumni to the Department Excellence Fund will be matched by the Institute (the time limit and money limit has not been specified, but still it is a good idea).Courtesy : Inside the Campus: Departments to participate in fundraising from alumni
I strongly encourage all alumni to designate their gifts to the Institute for Department Excellence Fund of any department that they want to support.