ALUMNI LEAD THE WAY TO A SUCCESSFUL GIVING DAY
By Teresa Bakker
The first UA Giving Day, held Oct. 20-22 was a success by every measure. Billed as “49 hours for the 49th state,” the online fundraising event drew participation from more than 1,100 individuals.
Online donations to the three universities totaled $672,600 to support students, university programs, research, athletics and scholarships. More than half of those gifts were from UAF donors, who gave a combined $416,000.
Participants came from 47 states and nine countries. Alumni made 80% of the donations. In fact, the UAF Alumni Association was the first to offer a challenge. After 49 alumni made a gift, the$10,000 gift was unlocked to support UAF students.
Cindy Wright, UAFAA president, said the board unanimously supported making a gift to the university during Giving Day. “This event and our gift demonstrate the importance of higher education in Alaska,” she said. “We know our alumni are invested in the further success of our university. And this gave them a fun and easy way to participate.”
Wright also met with the Associated Students of UAF student body government to promote Giving Day and encourage students to help spread the word. In the end, their stories inspired the generosity of the inaugural event’s participants. Students from almost every program shared videos about their experiences at UAF and thanked donors for their support.
ASUAF President Riley von Borstel promoted Giving Day through posts on Facebook and Instagram. She shared her story and her family's long history of attending UAF. “I talked about how for me UAF is synonymous with success, relationships, kindness and opportunity,” she said.
Von Borstel said the university has given her an opportunity to broaden her horizons. A justice and political science major, von Borstel has also participated in a full-blown UAF Theatre and Film Department production. She said UAF is her home away from home.
“I wanted to show people just how influential Alaska's higher educational institutions truly can be,” von Borstel said. “People typically think of negative 40 degree weather before they think about our world-class research, intimate class sizes and welcoming community. I also think that it's critical to include students in UA Giving Day. We are the reason the university exists.”
That’s why Sunrise Bagel and Espresso got involved. The popular Fairbanks-based coffee hut sponsors a monthly program called Sunrise Cares that supports 12 charities each year by donating 50 cents from every beverage purchased on a given day each month.
In October, the company promoted UA Giving Day on social media by featuring visits with Nook, the UAF mascot. The company also created a Nanook Energy drink, which was the special for the week leading up to the event and advertised through print and radio.
Alex Sloat, Sunrise’s marketing director, said as many as half of the baristas who work for the coffee company are UAF students. The business wanted to support higher education in Alaska, Sloat said. By directing their donations to the UAF Student Support Fund, Sunrise ensured students would benefit from the gift.
The company used the Giving Day platform to donate $1,674.60 during the event.
Gifts like these added to the excitement. As the countdown continued and donations rolled in, longtime donors Kes Woodward and Dorli McWayne took notice.
“It was fantastic to be able to watch it unfold online over the two days,” said Woodward, a UAF professor emeritus. “I was flabbergasted with how many people made gifts. Seeing those names and seeing other people make contributions, it makes you want to do the same.”
The couple was inspired to fulfill a long-planned donation. Dorli had endowed a scholarship
after her first husband, Barry McWayne, passed away in 2010 just a few weeks after
Woodward’s first wife Missy died suddenly.
“Giving to organizations and the university was very important to us,” McWayne said. “So it was a fitting way to honor him.”
Those losses had drawn Woodward and McWayne together, along with their passion for the community. “Both of us came into our marriage with a tradition of giving,” he said. “It’s tremendously rewarding to give something where you know exactly where the money is going and that the scholarship will be going on in perpetuity.”
Woodward had already set up an account with the purpose of endowing a scholarship in his first wife’s name. So when Giving Day came around, he told McWayne it seemed like a good time to make it happen.
Their gift of $30,303 to establish the Marianna “Missy” Boaz Woodward Memorial Scholarship for ceramic students was celebrated by the UAF College of Liberal Arts during the final hours of UA Giving Day 2020.
Sloat and Sunrise were thrilled with the success of the event and are already looking forward to next year.
"We saw a lot of community members involved and hopefully that number continues to grow,” Sloat said. “Our customers are faculty members and students. And of course we admire our baristas who work tirelessly to further their education. We are proud to support an institution that allows them to reach their goals.”
UA Giving Day was an opportunity for Alaskans to give back to the institutions that educate and prepare those who are responsible for Alaska's future. Our students noticed.
“I am in awe of the generosity of those in our community,” von Borstel said. “In a time of uncertainty and anxiety due to budget cuts and coronavirus, we are proof that Alaska is strong and there is still hope. I'm reminded every day that I made the right choice in choosing UAF for my higher education.”