At the time of publication, the University of Richmond raised $351,707 from 2,299 donors as part of UR Here, the university’s first giving day, on April 10 and 11, according to the program’s website.
“Before this, in a single day the advancements systems had not had more than 300 donations to process,” said Brittany Woo, an administrative coordinator for the office of major gifts. “The volume just went through the roof.”
The fundraising team selected the theme UR Here in an effort to attract alumni donors from across the globe, said Kim Lebar, director of annual giving.
Unlike UR's standard fundraising efforts, the giving day gave alumni, students and other donors the ability to give directly to specific academic departments and campus organizations, Lebar said.
“At the University of Richmond, our annual fund is always used to support students and primarily to support financial aid,” Lebar said. “While that’s fabulous, we have found that over time people care directly where their gift goes.
“People say: 'I want my money to go to theater and dance,' or 'I want my money to go to the baseball team' or ‘I want my money to go to the accounting department.' People want a sense of ownership of where their gift goes.”
Richmond Law and the Robins School of Business had two of the highest amounts among academic departments, with $37,340 and $34,935 raised respectively. Among individual sports teams, the men’s basketball team raised $18,785, and women’s lacrosse raised $11,406, according to the Giving Day website.
Dollars raised, while important, did not represent the only goal of UR Here, Lebar said. The university had also prioritized increasing the total number of individual donors, she said, in order to boost alumni satisfaction rankings.
“Participation in annual giving is one of the things U.S. News looks at when they rank schools,” Lebar said.
Low participation in annual giving gives off the perception that alumni must be angry or upset about something at their alma mater, Lebar said.
“We do not ever want to be in that category, so we work really hard to engage our alums, old and young, wealthy and not, to give back to the university,” Lebar said. “The beauty of alumni participation is that it does not matter how much someone gives.
“You can give a dollar, or you can give a million dollars. If they do that once every year, they have participated. It is not a measure of how much you raise, it is a measure of how many people support you.”
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People could donate through the UR Here website, which listed different challenges to incentivize donors. For example, if the fund received donations from 10 different countries, one donor had offered to match those total gifts.
UR’s Phonathon student calling center also participated in the event, having student employees work extended hours and leave voicemails on the days leading up to the giving day, said Junko Takahashi, a first-year and student caller.
“I don’t think there was any extra pressure," Takahashi said. "We just had a lot more hours that we were calling.
"Normally we call from 6-9 p.m. and sometimes we have day shifts from 3-6 p.m., but we were calling from 12-10 p.m. on Wednesday and 12-9 p.m. on Thursday.”
Similar giving days have become traditions at universities across the nation. With technological help from an outside firm, Community Foundation from Colorado Springs, Colorado, UR finally had the capacity to set up its own successful giving day, Lebar said.
“Giving day is a pretty short period of time, and it allows you to grab people's attention and get them focused at one time,” Lebar said. “Schools who have done this a long time have people get really excited about it, and they do fun and hilarious things, but you have to get started.”
After this first successful giving day, both Lebar and Woo said they hoped it would become an annual tradition for years to come.
“An overall goal was to change the culture of fundraising on campus with students and within our staff and faculty members,” Woo said. “I think we were successful in the fact that people were excited, and we got a lot of new donors coming through.”
Contact contributor Andrew Wilson at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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