This past week marked the fourth annual University of Richmond Spiders Helping Spiders giving campaign. The funds raised are reserved for students to use during times of emergency or need and provide access to internships, job interviews or graduate school.
Part of this campaign's success can be attributed to its transparency regarding where the funds go. All of the money raised during the week-long event goes directly to students in need without any profit by the university or debt put on students.
Kim Lebar, director of annual giving, recognized students’ need and created Spiders Helping Spiders to give community members a platform to donate directly to students.
“In every community, there are people that are going to have emergencies,” Lebar said. “I knew that our alums are passionate about supporting students once they are here, so I thought that we needed to have a week where we solicit money that is really going to help students without any strings attached.”
Martha Callaghan, vice president for advancement, has found that alumni and donors make gifts to this campaign because they can either relate to or empathize with students’ need for financial support during college.
“Through this, we have heard so many touching stories of alumni, one of which had a parent who passed away while they were a student 25 years ago and how he would not have made it through or graduated if the dean at the time had not helped him out and gotten him a ticket home,” Callaghan said. “These are the kinds of stories that inspire our alumni to want to support Spiders Helping Spiders.”
As this is a relatively new campaign, it is difficult to predict the extent of corresponding community engagement there will be.
“Things like this hopefully grow over time as people become more familiar with them,” Lebar said. “I felt like last year we really broke through the noise, and this year people know what we are talking about when we reach out to them about Spiders Helping Spiders.”
There are several gift-matching challenges within the campaign this year -- one of the most generous being an anonymous alumna and her spouse who have offered to match every gift during Spiders Helping Spiders, twice. This means that when someone gives to any fund in the campaign, this family will give up to a total of $125,000 to both the Student Emergency Fund and the Career Opportunity Fund.
“We have alumni and parents who are passionate about each piece of this campaign and who are willing to step up as leaders and say, ‘I want the community to join me in doing this because it is really important and I am willing to put this challenge out to the community and match all gifts that come in,’” Callaghan said.
There are several other challenges for donors to participate in. For example, Trustee Mihir Patel, R ‘02, and his wife, Kristy, will match gifts to financial aid up to $100,000. Other UR families have pledged to match up to $15,000 for the Career Opportunity Fund and $20,000 for the Student Emergency Fund.
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These matching gifts are not only special for their donations themselves, but the "challenge" aspect of it also encourages others to donate any amount they can to try and get the maximum amount matched.
If the amount raised exceeds the need for that year, the funds will roll over to the next academic year, Lebar said. In the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last year, the campaign raised $419,730 — nearly five times the amount from the previous year. This was a testament to the generosity and compassion of UR community members.
UR sophomore and phonathon supervisor Midhun Sree feels passionately about this campaign as a student who has benefitted from financial aid.
“I think it is really important to support these different funds because of the impact COVID-19 has had on students and families,” Sree said. “This campaign not only incentivizes people to give, but because we have people matching, as well, it just doubles and triples the impact one can have.”
Contact contributor Alanna Walsh at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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