The online-born phenomenon of Giving Tuesday, a holiday in which “charities and organizations all over the world…participate in a day of giving” according to its website, occurred on Tuesday, Nov. 28th at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM). The event is a 24 hour period in which students, employees, families, and anyone affiliated with St. Mary’s is invited to make an online donation.
Assistant Director of Alumni Relations, Lauren Taylor, identified bringing #givingtuesday to St. Mary’s as the brainchild of Alumni Director Dave Sushinsky. The nonprofit began five years ago as an attempt to partner with organizations and use social media to spread philanthropy, and SMCM has been participating since 2014.
This year’s Giving Tuesday at SMCM resulted in a total of $239,589 from 1,411 donors in the 24-hour giving period, an increase of $87,358 from last year.
The fundraiser included live music in campus center, s’mores and a photo booth with Solomon the Seahawk to engage community members and solicit donations throughout the day. Donor challenges in which alumni pledged to donate money once the College had received a target number of donations were established in order to stimulate further alumni engagement. The Alumni Council, in collaboration with the athletics department, launched a video challenge which called for sports teams and clubs to contribute videos about why they love St. Mary’s College of Maryland.
Donna West (‘76) launched a donor challenge which contributed donations to a scholarship under her name for environmental science and biology students with financial need, totaling $5,000 in donations for the fund.
Jeanne and Jack Saum (‘88 and ‘89, respectively) donated $10,000 at 300 donors for the St. Mary’s Fund, which, according to the College website, contributes to “areas of greatest strategic need”, emergencies, faculty initiatives, the Honors College 2.0 plan, institutional emergencies, faculty innovation, lectures, student research and community service.
Professor of economics and honorary alumnus Don Stabile donated the largest contribution, totaling $100,000 for the Don Stabile Fund, which includes postgraduate and doctoral scholarships for SMCM graduates.
The Alumni Council video challenge winner was the sailing team, winning $5,000 with a total of 248 votes. Men’s varsity lacrosse took second and women’s varsity lacrosse took third, winning $2,000 and $1,000, respectively. Each club or team who entered the contest but didn’t place received $138. SMCM’s philanthropy fellow, Sophia Macek, who works with the Office of Alumni Relations and the Office of Institutional Advancement, wrote in an email that engaging students in the video challenge “really played into the success of our fundraising!”
The fundraising efforts to set up Giving Tuesday require the coordination of many administrative components of the school. Macek said that “planning and execution efforts were accomplished by the Office of Institutional Advancement, which includes: the Alumni Office, the Office of Events & Conferences, the Marketing Department and Development. It is really quite exciting to get to work with such a diverse group of staff members, [and] many are alumni themselves.”
Macek also emphasized the contribution of volunteers to the success of the event, as well as the students involved in Seahawks Advancing Graduate Engagement (SAGE), a new institutional advancement group involved with philanthropic and alumni events. “Students and staff were busy working the day before and the day of. Some of our volunteers began their shifts at 6:30 a.m. to begin setup for the event. Our volunteers were present throughout the day at the event headquarters supporting our variety of stations. These stations ranged from helping with thank you card writing and manning the photo booth, to assisting our dip jar and voting stations.”
Since its implementation in 2014, Giving Tuesday has boosted alumni contributions and engagement, aided largely by efforts in marketing and student engagement to organize and execute the event.