Ready, set, give!

Mark your calendars for the give-fest of the year. Giving Day, a high-octane 24-hour online festival of nonstop giving, returns to UC Santa Cruz on February 27.

Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta

Mark your calendars for the give-fest of the year.  Giving Day, a high-octane 24-hour online festival of nonstop giving, returns to UC Santa Cruz on February 27.

This playful but impactful philanthropic festival breaks with traditional models of giving by encouraging “micro-donations”—small but important gifts that fund worthy projects while increasing the campus’s circle of loyal donors, attracting, encouraging and retaining new generations of philanthropists.

Last year, the festival set a high bar for success, with 162 projects. This year, there will be some new projects and many participants from previous years, said Jenna Hurley, associate director of annual giving for UC Santa Cruz’s University Development Programs and the project manager for Giving Day. “It’s about participation more than large dollars. Obviously, we would be excited about large donations but the main takeaway is that philanthropy is accessible.”

Donations will be accepted from 12:00 a.m. until 11:59 p.m on February 27. Donors should keep an eye on “challenge times,” during which the project that has the most unique donors in a specified time period is awarded bonus dollars. As the hours and minutes tick by, donors keep their eyes on the clock and try to outdo one another. Giving Day is the philanthropic answer to a marathon, but with an added twist: It ends with a 100-yard dash of giving.

Once again, matching-gift challenges and time-sensitive gift challenges will add a dose of intrigue and friendly competition to this festival, which supports student, staff, and faculty initiatives. Projects range from Tangroupe—a competitive tango troupe—to women’s rugby, the Slugs Fund Investment Group, and Weigh the Weanlings, a project that aims to weigh, measure, and tag 300 weanling elephant seals at Año Nuevo Reserve. Projects cover a wide range of interests and outcomes from health and well-being to diversity and inclusion, arts and humanities, athletics, and business.

Over the past two years, UC Santa Cruz has hosted a workshop that advises sponsors on pitches, promotion, and target demographics. This year, the course lecturer is Howard Heevner, assistant vice chancellor for University Relations. “While students are focused on Giving Day, they are really learning how to persuade an audience to support a cause they believe in,” he said.

Giving Day got a major publicity boost this year when the Chronicle of Philanthropy, a journal covering nonprofits, mentioned this festival in a detailed feature story about fundraisers dealing with the ‘‘college funding crunch.” The journal describes Giving Day as a fresh new approach to fundraising, blending crowdfunding with “excitement and urgency.”

The magazine also highlights an impressive Giving Day statistic: “In 2018, the 24-hour online fundraising drive netted $624,441 from 6,379 donors, almost two-thirds of whom were new supporters,” the magazine notes.

The burning question is: which projects will come out on top this year? Will the usual suspects win the challenges, or will new contenders knock them off the top post? Last year, Formula Slug, a student-run, nonprofit sustainable engineering organization specializing in student-designed electric race cars, won the “Slug Surprise,”  adding $5,000 to their project, which raised an impressive $17,259.

The Gail Project, which delves deeply into the history of the Pacific island of Okinawa, came out on top in terms of overall donations—367 of them, raising more than $21,000—making this organization one of Giving Day’s true “campaign heroes.”

Last year’s top overall money-raiser was the Smith Society, which raised $37,000 toward a special fellowship to honor the memory of Calli Joy Morrow (College Ten '17), a Smith Collegiate Fellow who died on January 13. The annual fellowship will go toward one current Smith Collegiate Fellow who demonstrates a special interest in community service.

Donors who want to support a wide variety of worthy projects should go to the Giving Day website.  

Donors who wish to create, match or support a Challenge Fund can contact Howard Heevner directly at