Syracuse University Magazine

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#GivingCUSEDay shows the power of alumni support

In 2015, #GivingCUSEDay was an inspired idea to raise funds for Syracuse University during Giving Tuesday, a global day of philanthropy. Hatched in the days leading up to the event, it was the brainchild of Kim Brown ’06, G’16, director of strategic communications and digital engagement in the University’s Office of Alumni Engagement. Featured on SU’s social media networks, the effort resulted in a substantial increase over Giving Tuesday the year before.

To build on that success, staff from the offices of alumni engagement and annual giving, partnering with the University’s marketing and communications team, created a campaign for November 29, #GivingCUSEDay 2016. The plan included videos, emails, social posts, and articles, as well as a new landing page to streamline the online giving experience. More than 400 donors responded to the appeal, resulting in gifts to 80 designations, with The Fund for Syracuse, the Scholarship Fund, and the Pearl Washington Endowed Fund ranking as the top three.

EverTrue, a company that works with hundreds of nonprofit organizations to increase philanthropic support, named SU’s plan one of the greatest #GivingTuesday campaigns of 2016. “We love Syracuse’s approach to #GivingTuesday,” the company’s review said. “Syracuse did an exceptional job of showing followers that small gifts do count. Their social media presence felt like an online pep rally as the University pumped out creative, branded content, and bite-sized videos to get the Orange Nation excited about the day.”

The online comments from donors showed just how enthusiastic they were about supporting the University on #GivingCUSEDay. “Simply put, I love Syracuse University and want to ensure future black and Latino students have adequate financial aid,” wrote Nicole Osborne ’14. Jane Hong ’16 shared: “Giving to Syracuse means future students can have the same opportunities I had to thrive and grow.” Said Matthew Livaccari ’99: “I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity that was given to me by Syracuse University. It has resonated throughout my entire life, ever since I enrolled as a wide-eyed 18-year-old.” Parents Peter Gannon and Leslie Timoney donated because their son Andrew Gannon ’20 “loves it so much that we want to support the institution.”

Sean Scanlon, vice president of development, was pleased with the results. “Philanthropic support from our alumni, parents, and friends is vital as we continue to offer our students the best possible experience in higher education,” Scanlon says. “#GivingCUSEDay was a wonderful example of donors investing in our students—sharing their enthusiasm and willingness to provide the excellence of a Syracuse University education now and in the future.” 

The giving wasn’t a one-way street. Members of SU’s Student Philanthropy Council not only donated to the University, they also served meals that day at the Samaritan Center in downtown Syracuse. “The workers at the Samaritan Center told us that because it was the end of the month, there would be a large number of people coming to eat,” says Jennie May ’17, the council’s chair. “In about two hours, we served more than 300 meals—not just handing out food, but getting the chance to talk to the people. It was a great experience, seeing the effect our giving back had in their faces.”

The day was also an opportunity to promote the Class Act giving program for seniors, according to May. “Class Act helps seniors start to transition from students to alumni,” she says. “The suggested $20.17 gift gets them thinking about giving back to the University for the many opportunities they’ve had here. After four years at Syracuse, you’re not the same person you were when you arrived. You’ve had time to learn and grow and impact the community—and that’s made a big impact on you, as well.” 

—Paula Meseroll