Realigning fundraising efforts to support student success and well-being

Realigning fundraising efforts to support student success and well-being

Key takeaways

  • Turning Giving Days into Student Support Days is one way to raise funds to support students during challenging times
  • Advancement teams need to think beyond the traditional ways they support student services
  • Supporting students now so they can complete their degrees will help fund future initiatives 

In light of the coronavirus pandemic, not only have higher education institutions shifted their learning online, they’ve also shifted their giving days online.

UC Davis recently hosted a virtual Give Day. They focused their fundraising efforts on the emergency funds that support students as well as the medical professionals at UC Davis Health. The campaign received more than 3,000 gifts, raising more than $2.5 million.

Some institutions are moving forward with planned fundraising initiatives and then directing those funds to support students financially impacted by COVID-19. In the case of Princeton University, they are still encouraging giving through their annual fund but this unrestricted fund helps meet “the needs of the students who must remain on campus, and the technical costs of virtual learning,” among other needs.

Other institutions, like the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), have aligned fundraising efforts specifically around fighting the coronavirus. Their #UABfightsCOVID campaign features many ways to give, including supporting students.

Turning Giving Days into Student Support Days is just one way that advancement teams can realign their fundraising efforts during this challenging time. There are other ways to help support student success and well-being, and it starts with thinking beyond the ways in which advancement has traditionally funded student services.

Think beyond the food pantry

Advancement has traditionally supported pantries—and still can! Campus food pantries are open even though students aren't on campus. UAB’s Blazer Kitchen is operating via a drive thru process. They’re serving students who have nowhere else to go, who can’t afford food because they’re not working. Those students need food pantries now more than ever. 

But we have to think beyond the food pantry. What else do students need? They need technology. They need Wi-Fi access. They need housing. They need mental health services. How can we help meet the crucial need for student support through philanthropy?

How are we supporting low-income students or first-generation students who may not have access to stable internet? They can't go to the library and they can't go to coffee shops. So how are they accessing Wi-Fi? They may have a phone however some students may have limited data. Plus, not all assignments can be easily completed on mobile devices. Think about typing on your phone, or even an iPad. You can do it, but it's not very conducive to online learning. 

One solution is to leverage corporate partnerships. We can work with our corporate partners to provide Wi-Fi and technology access to students who can’t afford it. The Portland Community College Foundation pledged $100,000 to purchase computers and partnered with an internet service provider to give students high-speed access.

Many first-generation students can’t afford on-campus housing, so they live in their cars. Those students need our help, too, as do the students who can’t make rent because they’re out of work. The Western Colorado University Foundation partnered with the institution’s student government association and Office of Student Affairs to establish a fund that provides financial support for temporary housing, among other needs.

Mental health services are another student support area that advancement can help. Mental health services on campus are one of the lowest funded areas. Many institutions do not have these resources available online. So, how can philanthropy help with that? Is there a way that we could pay for consulting hours, for online mental health care for students, and do that through the student health center? 

Support students toward degree completion

Finally, how do we help students finish their degree? This pandemic hit everyone out of the blue and many students were not equipped for the rapid shift to distance learning. If they can't access their courses online, they can't finish. And if they can’t complete their degree work, they won’t graduate and become the alums that advancement teams lean on. 

If we can support them now, they'll be more likely to give back after they graduate. We have to help students get to the finish line however we can. 

Student foundations are a good start. UC Davis’ student foundation Aggies Helping Aggies raises money for programs that directly benefit undergraduates, including the Student Emergency Relief Aid (SERA) program, the Bookstore Award, the Cap and Gown Award, and the Senior Class Challenge.

Fostering digital relationships

We have to think beyond scholarships and look for ways to directly help students by funding the services that are desperately needed right now, the ones that aren’t traditionally funded by advancement. That will require reprioritization and exploring different avenues of raising those funds, plus the ability to track and report progress to institutional leaders.

Advancement is relationship-based, relying heavily on face-to-face interactions. Now, all those interactions must take place digitally. CRM technology helps cultivate donor relationships as well as manage campaigns effectively, even while social distancing. Its functionality is now mission critical for advancement and will be key to realigning fundraising efforts.

Meet the authors
jenny jones
Jenny Jones
Senior Strategist, Advancement, Ellucian

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