Giving Day 2021: Widening the circle of support

Giving Day has gone from a fledgling fundraiser to one of the philanthropic highlights of the year. Marissa Fullum-Campbell, director of annual support at UCSC, attributes Giving Day’s growing popularity in part to its impact and transparency.

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UC Santa Cruz students, faculty, staff, parents, friends, and alumni across the country participate in supporting Giving Day. Each Giving Day project gets its own dedicated web page, with detailed information on projects and where the funding is needed. 

 

Giving Day, UC Santa Cruz’s wildly successful and fast-paced 24-hour crowdfunding contest, returns on November 3, with a strong emphasis on programs designed to support students in these challenging times.

 This impactful philanthropic event, now going into its sixth year, is mostly virtual by design. Part of the fun is refreshing the Giving Day page over and over again to see which projects are surging ahead in fundraising challenges.

This event has gone from a fledgling fundraiser to one of the philanthropic highlights of the year. Marissa Fullum-Campbell, director of annual support at UCSC, attributes Giving Day’s growing popularity in part to its impact and transparency. 

“Why is it such a success?” she said. "I think it’s that people can see exactly where their money is going. If people get an invitation to support an athletic team, for example, they know it is because the team is paying for jerseys, travel costs, and equipment. Knowing how the funds will be used empowers supporters.”

UC Santa Cruz students, faculty, staff, parents, friends, and alumni across the country participate in supporting Giving Day. Each Giving Day project gets its own dedicated web page, with detailed information on projects and where the funding is needed. 

This year, at least 130 projects will seek funding. Though most of the action takes place online, there is usually some analog component, with booths set up in various gathering places across the campus to inspire excitement and generosity. 

But the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic made the event pivot to an all-virtual format last year. This year, with students returning to campus for in-person learning, there will be a small but visible Giving Day presence on campus, with a few Giving Day booths set up at Quarry Plaza, weather permitting, and with an in-person greeting by Sammy the Slug. Helpers will circulate with iPads that donors can use to donate to various projects. 

Most of Giving Day’s popular traditions will continue this year. As in past years, supporters will start funding programs at the stroke of 12 a.m. on November 3 and keep on going until 11:59 p.m. Giving Day’s website will provide up-to-the-moment tallies. 

Expect to see many exciting Giving Day projects in the lineup, with a combination of old mainstays and newcomers. 

The Alumni Association Scholarship Fund (AASF) has had a strong presence in past Giving Day celebrations, but this year marks this eminent organization’s 30th anniversary—an additional incentive to support it. The funds from this project will go exclusively to students in financial need. 

“What is so wonderful about this [AASF] fund is that it supports a student in good academic standing for the entirety of their undergraduate career,” Fullum-Campbell said. 

The Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Faculty Initiative will have a Giving Day project this year to raise money for an alumni speaker panel. 

This fundraiser is part of AAPI Faculty Initiative’s goal to raise awareness about the experiences, perspectives, and contributions of Asian and Asian American students, staff, and faculty and increase cross-cultural understanding through events, education, exhibitions, and other programs. 

SlugCents, which offers financial literacy coaching to students, is holding a Giving Day fundraiser to help with its mission to provide all students with equal access to financial resources so they can understand the UCSC financial system, make informed decisions about planning for higher education, graduate with as little debt as possible, and learn lifelong skills. 

SlugCents offers financial information, workshops, resources, and other programming to all UCSC students, including recent alumni and students taking a leave of absence. 

As always, supporters should keep a close watch on “challenge times,” during which the project that has the most unique donors in a specified time period is awarded bonus dollars.

And that relentless pace does not let up. This is not a marathon. It’s more like a series of 100-yard dashes, including an all-out push to the finish line at the very end. 

That last-minute burst at the end of the day has its reward: The group that has the most unique donors during the whole day is awarded bonus dollars.

Giving Day started out as an unconventional fundraising event, known for its independent spirit and its willingness to break with custom. 

Rather than fall back on traditional modes of giving, this event encourages “micro-donations”—small but important gifts that fund worthy programs while increasing the campus’s circle of loyal supporters, attracting and encouraging future giving. 

Last year, the UC Santa Cruz community showed its generosity by contributing more than $600,000

“The goal is always to exceed the previous year’s fundraising figure,’’ Fullum-Campell said. But she’s more excited about increasing overall donor engagement and excitement about giving. “If we receive a notable increase in the number of undergraduate alumni who are giving this year, that is a win in our book.”