Lehigh's first Giving Day aims to engage all members of the Lehigh community. The 24-hour period will include various challenges and other incentives to collect donations. (Photo illustration by Sam Henry/B&W Staff)

Giving Day changes approach to university donation

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Lehigh will take an alternative approach to university philanthropy on its first-ever 24-hour Giving Day on March 27.

Giving Day, overseen by the Office of Development and Alumni Relations, with help from the Association of Student Alumni, provides a new way to collect university donations. As opposed to more traditional methods, like calling and asking alumni to donate to projects and departments in need of funding, Giving Day is an interactive fundraiser that will encourage students and alumni to donate to Lehigh causes of their choice.

Jennifer Cunningham, the assistant vice president of alumni relations, said Lehigh is following a trend in university philanthropy.

“It’s a tool that a lot of universities are using to pack all of the great things that the school is doing into one 24-hour blitz,” she said. 

Donald Outing, the vice president for equity and community, said Giving Day will give members of the Lehigh community a chance to donate to the causes that matter to them.

Bea Maloney, ’19, the president of the Association of Student Alumni, said donations can be directed to any academic department, club or organization, Greek chapter, or sports team. Donations can be made over the phone or on the Lehigh Giving Day website.

Maloney said donors can also give to the Lehigh fund, which helps provide students with scholarships and financial aid.

Maloney said there are challenges associated with encouraging students and recent graduates to donate.

“They wonder why they should donate when they’re already paying tuition and as students, a lot of us don’t have full-time jobs so we can’t give in the same way that we would be able to if we had graduated,” Maloney said. “It’s also hard to get people to understand what exactly they’re giving back to.”

Cheryl Matherly, the vice provost for international affairs, said Giving Day will provide an opportunity to re-engage with the alumni community.

“My understanding was that this was Alumni Affairs’ way of finding ways that are fun and appealing to connect us to a group of alumni that have fallen off of the radar a bit,” Matherly said.

Since the event is the first of its kind at Lehigh, organizers are not sure what the outcome will be.

“It’s really getting as many people involved as possible,” Cunningham said. “We do not have a fundraising goal. It’s the first year we’re doing it, and so we’re just really trying to get people to participate to see what it’s all about. Hopefully we’ll do this in future years and well have a better sense of the Lehigh community’s reaction to it,” 

In an effort to further incentivize donors, organizers have created challenges for many of the university’s departments. The challenges can be unlocked throughout the day based on how much is raised within departments.

For example, Cunningham said Bruce Taggart, the vice provost of LTS, will deliver pizzas to students in Lehigh’s libraries if the libraries raise $4,000.

While the ultimate goal of the day is to raise money for the university, organizers are also focused on incorporating generations of Lehigh students. Cunningham said they are hoping to reach alumni who have not responded to traditional methods of outreach and create new donors out of young alumni and current students, who tend to be the audiences that respond to events like Giving Day.

“This is the perfect opportunity for the Lehigh community to band together in support of students, colleges, initiatives and aspirations that matter,” Outing said. “This inaugural event can serve as a catalyst to create a purpose-driven culture here at Lehigh.”

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