Manchester donors love a challenge

Challenging times inspired alumni and friends to dig deeper and give more to this year’s Giving Day. More than 400 donors combined for more than $235,000, more than doubling the original goal of $100,000 and last year’s total.

Originally scheduled for April 22, Giving Day is a one-day fundraising campaign that emphasizes participation and encourages individuals to become first-time donors, regardless of the size of the gift.

In a normal year, students are heavily involved in on-campus Giving Day activities, some for just for fun and others designed to heighten their understanding about the importance of philanthropy.

With the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, however, it has not been an ordinary year.

With students learning remotely for the second half of spring semester and faculty and staff working from home, the Advancement Office scuttled its original plans and offered a toned-down, scaled-back version of Giving Day on June 3.

“We kept moving forward,” says Kylee Rosenbaum ’11 Moss, director of alumni relations. “We were able to come up with a new plan and a new date and created virtual events and outreach to bring people together.

“Even we were surprised by the support,” adds Moss. “Our donors blew every goal and expectation we had out of the water!”

There was a virtual coffee hour with President Dave McFadden; cooking and baking presentations; live music performed by graduates, faculty and staff; a Snapchat scavenger hunt and MU trivia on Zoom.

Emails and social media posts promoted Giving Day and the importance it plays in supporting student financial aid and the daily life of Manchester University. This year, all gifts were earmarked for The Manchester Fund.

Several challenge gifts provided donors with additional incentive. Dr. David Bowman ’72 and Madonna Rhodehamel ’72 Bowman pledged $5,000 to match any gifts from alumni who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic such as teachers, social workers, health care providers and those who work for social justice.

An anonymous donor pledged $5,000 to match any physician who gave on Giving Day.

The Alumni Board and Manchester Mates – alumni who met their partners at Manchester – made challenge gifts too.

The largest challenge gift came from an anonymous graduate who pledged $20,000 to match any gifts on Giving Day that didn’t have any other match.

And not all donors were alumni, faculty or staff. A North Carolina mother of a student in the Class of 2021 did a Facebook fundraiser on her own birthday and raised $410 to help Manchester.

“We understood that with the pandemic and the resulting economic anxiety that this year’s Giving Day could be a struggle,” says Melanie Harmon, vice president for advancement. “We never imagined how generous people would be. My heart is full with gratitude for the members of the Manchester family who stepped up so boldly to help our students when they needed it most."