July 20, 2019 | 85° F

Students, alumni donate hundreds of thousands in first Giving Day

Photo by Ken Hunter |

Universities around the country depend on donations to keep their facilities and organizations running, with Rutgers being no exception. On Dec. 1, more than $1 million was donated as part of its first annual Giving Day.

The 24-hour donation period was hosted by the Office of Annual Giving and the Rutgers Foundation, said Lauren Redfern, assistant director of Student Philanthropy. While the office worked with University schools, it had no outside sponsors.

“Giving Day ... is in conjunction with Giving Tuesday, which is an international giving day in coordination with Black Friday and Cyber Monday,” she said. “It’s meant to give back and not just for (people to) buy gifts.”

Having at least 1,500 people donate $500,000 was the initial goal, but that was exceeded within 16 hours, she said. As of 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the donor count had been more than doubled, with roughly $660,000 donated.

By 8:30 p.m., more than $1 million had been donated by 5,000 people.

A running total was kept on givingday.rutgers.edu, with a countdown timer showing how much time was left to donate and how much money had been raised so far, she said.

“The best part about it is it’s all about participation,” she said. “So (we take) gifts of any amount, our minimum gift is $5, and (you) give to where you have a passion.”

Donors could reach out to any organization or program within the University, especially if they were groups that had an impact on the student, she said. Every school within Rutgers was also listed as institutions able to receive money.

“Anyone at Rutgers benefits from donor dollars (because) we partnered with so many people across the University system,” she said. “If there isn’t a space for you to give through our leaderboard, you can always give through the ‘other’ button.”

People were able to donate through the website, in person at stands in the College Avenue Student Center and the Busch Student Center, by phone or through the mail, she said. All of these donations will count toward the day’s total after they have been processed.

"We’re also processing gifts through the telephone, they’ve been calling since 10:00 a.m. today and they’ll call until midnight," she said.

Students, alumni and other donors submitted funds by stating specifically which organization or program they wanted to benefit. Beneficiaries included groups from the New Brunswick campus and the Rutgers Biological Health Services division.

These groups were organized by type on the website, and included a “students and special causes” tab, she said.

Further subdivisions within the groups narrowed down the possible recipients. For groups still not represented, an “other” option existed.

"We have a giving day platform, it’s (our website) and people are giving gifts through that site today as opposed to giving through our normal giving site," she said. 

Processing the donations would be the next step, she said.

“The gifts have to be processed and that can take some time but really most of it is for immediate use,” Redfern said. “Normally we see 100 gifts a day if that, so now ... because of the volume of the gifts (we will need) time.”

Recipients will definitely be able to access their new funds by the Spring semester, she said.

Giving Day was promoted through social media, signs, email blasts and phone calls to alumni, she said. Scarlet Voice, a social media platform hosted by the foundation, also promoted the day.

In addition to receiving donations, volunteers went around the campus centers giving out prize boxes and asked students what giving means to them, she said. The New Brunswick students received 1,500 gift boxes to represent the original number of hoped-for donors.

Part of the process included telling students about the donations and what they could benefit, she said.

“We can do a lot with those dollars and I am just so excited,” she said. “It’s exciting to teach, especially the student population about what donors do.”

The day was very successful, she said.

“I think that it was just a really exciting day, it’s the first time we’ve ever done something like this and it was so successful (in that) we exceeded our goals ... hours ago,” Redfern said. “It’s really been amazing, I am so proud of our alumni ... (and) our community for thinking about Rutgers.”

Nikhilesh De

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