All in a Day's Work

November 16th was Give SJU Day, and this year it was the biggest donor day in the history of Saint John’s University!  As the dust settles on a magnificent day, I want to share the results with you, our loyal blog readers.

On Give SJU Day, 1,268 donors gave $436,348 for scholarships, and that broke the record of 815 donors in single day, set on Give SJU Day in November of 2014.  In dollars, the day more than doubled last year’s Give SJU Day total.

The day began with our first gift at 12:55 a.m., and it came all the way from Tanzania, thanks to Benedictine Volunteer Adam Kolb ’16.  Gifts then came in from Zeljko Ostojic ’08 who lives in Bosnia & Herzegovina, Jim Vivaldelli ’71 from Pennsylvania, Robert Spies from Ohio, and Ryan Minnehan ’10 from North Carolina.  And all those arrived before 6 a.m.!

That’s how the story of the day played out.  Donors from 40 states and 8 countries sent in gifts, and they did so all the way up until midnight.  They exhausted all of our matching grants – twice – and by noon we had to seek more matching gifts just to keep the energy of the day going.  It was a good problem to have, I might say.  Even after the match was fulfilled, we saw donors wanting to be part of a fun, engaging day that involved the entire community.

61% of donors on Give SJU Day had been donors last year, and 8% made second gifts this year.  But what’s really impressive is that 33% were renewed or new donors to SJU – which is great!

39 members of the Class of 2010 participated, and the classes of 2013 and 2008 were not far behind.  Toward the end of the day a special young alumni challenge brought in 235 gifts from alumni in the youngest ten class years (or 19% of the day’s donors).  Common to every class that had a strong donor performance was an organized gift volunteer effort that played out in the background.  Special thanks to these key volunteers for sharing why they give, and for inspiring classmates to do the same!

While most of the donors on Give SJU Day were alumni, a crowd of current parents, parents of alumni, employees, friends and even students also participated in the day.  At midday, students set up a stage in Brother Willie’s Pub and shared their own thanks to donors through song, poetry and comedy – and they broadcast it live on Facebook.  Students also signed thank-you notes, called and sent video messages of gratitude, and even made their own gifts to the Student Fund.  At this stage the size of their gifts may be small, but we know that when students get involved in acknowledging donors and expressing genuine gratitude, their own philanthropic sights are lifted.

The common worry among annual giving professionals is that giving days might become impersonal, tacky or overdone.  No one wants a giving day to feel gimmicky, least of all me.  But the experience of Give SJU Day this year put to rest those concerns.  It was a record-setting day;  it was a lot of fun for all who were involved;  and it set Saint John's up for a strong finish for the Student Fund as we approach the end of the calendar year.

By every measure Give SJU Day was a huge success this year, and not just for the records that donors set that day.  More important is what it all accomplishes for our students.  They are the reason we make such an effort, and the collective generosity of alumni and friends of Saint John's makes possible the scholarships that allow our students to be here.  And the result of all this effort?  We see it every spring when a new cohort of ethical, grounded, well-read and compassionate men join the ranks of our alumni.  To all our volunteers and donors who helped, I say: this Thanksgiving, our students are thankful for you!

[Editor’s note: to see posts made on Give SJU Day, visit these sites: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram]