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Giving Day 2018 aims to make a lasting impact

March 20 is Cornell Giving Day 2018, the fourth annual day of giving dedicated to supporting the university and unifying Cornellians all over the world.

“Giving Day is a great call to action for Cornell alumni, parents and friends to have a tangible impact on the university,” said Fred Van Sickle, vice president for alumni affairs and development. “It is gratifying to see faculty, students and staff join in to demonstrate their commitment, as well.”

This year, Giving Day will feature an event on the Ithaca campus. Also new this year, those who participate online will be able to support the causes they care about.

On Giving Day 2017, Cornell raised $6.3 million from more than 12,200 gifts, topping the number of donors and gifts from each of the two previous years and raising $200,000 more than in 2016. This success came despite a snowstorm that closed the university by noon.

“We hope for this year to be even bigger and better,” said Jennifer Kwiatkowski, associate director of Cornell Annual Giving Programs. “People give to Cornell every day of the year, but on Giving Day, Cornellians of all backgrounds and regions join together in a public and exciting way, really showcasing the broad and diverse Cornell community.”

Gifts of all sizes to all areas of Cornell count even more than usual on Giving Day, Kwiatkowski added, thanks to matching gifts waiting to be unlocked by challenges scheduled throughout the day.

Donors can give to the specific college, unit, team, project or group they most want to support, using a detailed search on givingday.cornell.edu. They can also support causes they care about – such as the environment, health and wellness, public policy, the arts and several more.

“As they think about how and where they want to give, donors can look at the great work Cornell is doing in support of these important causes,” said Kwiatkowski.

Starting with a $2,500 prize going to the first gift after midnight on March 20, challenges and competitions will keep spirits high and direct bonus funds to winning colleges or units. Some scheduled challenges aim to spur gifts from international alumni, parents, young alumni and other groups. Others test the skills of participants, such as a call for the best first day of spring photo posted on social media with the hashtag #CornellGivingDay.

With participants all over the globe, social media plays a key role in publicizing Giving Day and in getting Cornellians excited about their role in the day’s success, said Ashley Budd, director of digital marketing for alumni affairs and development.

“Anyone can help spread the word about Giving Day,” she said. “When you share the website on social media, tag your post with the Giving Day hashtag.”

Each social media post tagged with #CornellGivingDay on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms will be entered into one of two random drawings. Winners of these challenges will earn $2,000 in bonus funds for the college or unit of their choice. Additional drawings will take place throughout the day.

“With $110,000 up for grabs, these participation challenges tap into the fun and competitive spirit of Cornellians worldwide,” said Budd.

Giving Day will also have a prominent physical presence on the Ithaca campus with a celebration in Willard Straight Hall from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Students are invited to pick up giveaways, take a selfie and write a thank you card to a donor. Campus leaders, including Vice President for Student and Campus Life Ryan Lombardi and Dean of Students Vijay Pendakur will serve up free scoops of the first-ever Giving Day ice cream flavor, “Chip In,” a blue vanilla-flavored base punctuated by chocolate chips and raspberry swirl created by Cornell Dairy.

Kwiatkowski said the on-campus celebration will connect Giving Day to students and faculty – some of the most direct beneficiaries of Giving Day support – in a tangible way and spread the word about philanthropy.

“We hope this celebration will have a lasting impact,” she said.

Kate Klein is a writer for Alumni Affairs and Development.

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Lindsey Hadlock