Giving Day raises $600K for worthy causes

Despite being postponed because of the pandemic, UC Santa Cruz's annual online giving event in support of student and faculty projects was a smashing success

Loyal Banana Slugs banded together to make the fifth annual Giving Day a resounding success this year, raising more than $600,000 for worthy causes and demonstrating the campus community’s strong commitment to philanthropy. 

Emily Denning Todd, associate director of annual and digital giving for UC Santa Cruz, pronounced the day a great achievement. 

“Alumni, faculty/staff, students, retirees/emeriti, and friends all came together on the day before classes to give our students a hopeful beginning to a challenging year," she said. 

Though the pandemic created a few logistical challenges, including a four-month postponement and a pivot to an all-online format, this was one of the most successful Giving Days since the inception of this high-octane, 24-hour online event of giving in 2016. 

The fundraiser hinges on peer-to-peer outreach, a strong sense of social responsibility, and the good-natured spirit of teams trying to outdo each other to win bonus challenge dollars. The end result is a formula for success. The 4,732 gifts this year will support more than 130 programs and activities across the campus. 

“This year’s  results are a testament to the extraordinary programs and initiatives that are occurring across the campus as well as the hard work that goes into Giving Day by all of the teams," said Vice Chancellor for University Relations Mark Delos Reyes Davis. “It was an amazing way to demonstrate to our incoming students what a remarkable community they are joining.”

Many of this year’s Giving Day supporters previously gave to the campus to support the COVID-19 Response Fund, which helps fund critical research at the Molecular Diagnostic Lab, where researchers have implemented a testing process on campus that identifies active COVID-19 cases; and the 2020 Wildfire Relief Fund, which supports those in the campus community affected by disasters like the recent wildfires. Both fundraisers were later folded into Giving Day.

“As with everything during COVID-19, we weren't sure how things would turn out,” Davis said.

“It wasn’t clear if the day before classes was a good time or if we were asking too much of our donors after the COVID and Wildfire campaigns.”

But the end result was a gift inundation. 

 A variety of exciting challenges kept the adrenaline flowing throughout the day-long event. The All-Day Challenge offered a total of $11,000 of additional funding to the three groups with the highest number of unique donors throughout the whole day. 

The highest performer in that competition was Empowering Student Leadership: The Nik Madsen Memorial Endowment for Whole Heart Leadership, with 229 donors. Because of this impressive turnout, the team received a $7,000 fundraising bonus. Empowering Student Leadership earned a total of $34,000, including the bonus. 

The Nik Madsen Memorial Endowment for Whole Heart Leadership was created in 2018 to support leadership development among UC Santa Cruz Adventure Rec, which provides the campus community with outdoor, recreational, and hands-on learning experiences. 

This year featured the Mid-Day Motivator, funded by Chancellor Cynthia Larive and her husband, Jim Larive. The three groups with the most unique donors from 12–2 p.m. were awarded additional funding. Those groups were SACNAS, Empowering Student Leadership, and the Norris Center

The pandemic delayed the start of Giving Day, originally scheduled for April 22, and altered the format. COVID-related safety concerns led to an all-online event.

But those emergencies also underscored the importance of Giving Day.

“Given the nature of how learning will be conducted during COVID, it is even more important that the programs during Giving Day are supported,” Todd said. 

Check out the Giving Day page for detailed information about fundraisers across the campus. Though Giving Day has officially ended, those who wish to donate to UC Santa Cruz can visit our Giving site.