Students write postcards thanking donors on Giving Day 2024.

Record-breaking number of donors turn out for Giving Day

A record 18,692 donors rallied to do the greatest good in just over 24 hours, hitting a new high on Cornell’s 10th Giving Day, held March 14. 

“This year’s tremendous show of support is especially poignant in these challenging times for higher education,” said Fred Van Sickle, vice president for alumni affairs and development. “Through nearly 27,000 gifts made to causes all across the university, Cornellians affirmed that they believe in Cornell’s ability to provide a life-changing education for students and develop solutions for some of our world’s most intractable problems.”

Cornellians supported 656 funds – another record – across the university to raise $12,172,046, from all sizes of gifts. Donors from all 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico, Washington, D.C. and 74 countries made gifts. 

The gifts, which came from alumni, students, parents, faculty, staff and friends, help advance the goals of Cornell’s To Do the Greatest Good campaign, which focuses on keeping a Cornell education accessible regardless of students’ financial need, as well as on supporting vital research and public engagement work across Cornell. 

Since Giving Day fell on Pi Day this year, a new game was debuted for the occasion, Touchdown’s Pie Delivery, in which players navigate through McGraw Tower obstacles to collect digital pies. The top five areas to collect the most pies –Cornell University Library, Cornell Engineering, Athletics and Physical Education, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the ILR School – split bonus funds based on the number of pies awarded to each. Around 2,600 users played and collected 35,886 pies. The highest-scoring player also earned an extra $500 for the Cornell Engineering Annual Fund.

This year’s Giving Day hosted its largest-ever number of campus events, with 1,400 students attending 15 events on Cornell’s Ithaca campus, plus two more events on Cornell Tech’s Roosevelt Island campus. Students wrote 6,600 thank-you postcards to be mailed to Giving Day donors.

“It’s such a unique opportunity to take part in a fundraiser with such a diverse impact across disciplines, programming and communities,” said Noah Phillips ’24, co-chair of the Senior Class Campaign. “It’s a chance to be part of something bigger, to give back in a way that resonates with my values and helps forge a brighter future for the university community as a whole.”

Breaking two more donor records, more than 2,200 undergraduate young alumni and nearly 700 current students made gifts to causes ranging from community engagement and experiential learning to student access and sustainability. 

Fueling this activity was a strong emphasis on peer-to-peer outreach. Nearly 600 student and alumni volunteers also participated as Giving Day Champions, reaching out through their networks to encourage peers and like-minded donors to support the causes they care about.

“Giving Day is a great way I can give back to the places at Cornell that have made my collegiate experience so memorable and encourage my peers to do so as well,” said Jeremy Herring ‘24, a member of the Senior Class Campaign. Current students also topped the leaderboard of class donations, with the Class of 2024 making more gifts than any other class, followed by the classes of 2025, 2026 and 2027.

Cornellians extended the reach of their gifts by participating in 138 challenges and matches, unlocking challenge funds and gift matches throughout the day. More than 100 donors pulled together to support the Undergraduate Scholarship Annual Fund, unlocking an additional $100,000 from Cornell Board of Trustees Chair Kraig Kayser, MBA ’84, with the Cornell Undergraduate Scholarship Challenge. Undergraduates and recent graduates also helped unlock an additional $100,000 for scholarships with the Cornell Young Alumni and Student Challenges, created by Mary Armstrong Meduski ’80. 

“I’ve been a donor every year since I graduated,” Meduski said. “I got so much out of my Cornell education. I found at Cornell a great group of friends, an environment that I could learn and thrive in, a first-rate education and lots of fond memories.”

Undergraduate scholarships helped Meduski pursue a Cornell education as a first-generation college student, so affordability remains close to her heart. 

Cornell clubs and associations also made a strong show of support, more than doubling their fundraising totals for club and association scholarships from 2023. Six club-driven Giving Day events brought Cornellians together throughout the U.S. in Florida, Hawaii, New Jersey, Maryland, Rochester and New York City.

Jennifer Wholey is a marketing writer in Alumni Affairs and Development.

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Lindsey Knewstub