Giving Tuesday: Despite economic distress, colleges raise millions

The numbers indeed show continued interest in higher ed, but also perhaps a "slight slowdown" in giving compared to previous pandemic years.

Even at the height of the pandemic Giving Tuesday proved to be an overwhelming success for colleges and universities, with more than $10.5 million being raised in 2020 on the annual day of giving. Predictably, that trend hasn’t changed.

According to data released by the solutions provider Anthology, more than $8.5 million was raised by higher education institutions using the platform Encompass alone. More than 34,400 charitable donations were given to colleges of all sizes with an average gift amount of $247. Furthermore, nearly 250 institutions received 30 or more donations in the span of one day, and 30% of donations were made using digital wallets.

Although the numbers are slightly lower than in previous pandemic years, Dr. Mirko Widenhorn, senior director of engagement strategy for Anthology, noted a “continued strong overall performance among institutions using Anthology Encompass,” he said in a statement.

He attributed the 4% decrease in giving to the current state of the economy and the number of organizations vying for donor support. However, the numbers still show a 9% increase in donations compared to 2019 figures, an indication of continued interest in supporting higher education. Yet, according to Widenhorn, it’s possible there are signs of a “slight slowdown” in giving compared to the past two years.

In addition, higher ed institutions that took to digitally driven methods of contribution performed seemingly well.

Penn State, for example, is celebrating the event on its webpage, showcasing the total amount raised and the number of donors. So far, the school has raised over $1.2 million with more than 10,600 donors.

Kent State, another university that saw tremendous success this year, takes a unique approach to Giving Tuesday. In its eighth year of the tradition, the school uses the entire month of November to campaign while adding new incentives to the mix each Tuesday. Kent concluded its fundraising efforts with a total amount of $3.6 million raised. Similar to the overall figures, the school saw less than it did last year when it raised a record-breaking $7.71 million.

Using these methods of gamification, for instance, leaderboards, competitions and challenges, according to Widenhorn, helps encourage increased support.

This year marked Giving Tuesday’s 10th anniversary. Its inception stemmed from the idea of creating a day when people could have the opportunity to give back following the two major days of consumption: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Since then, it’s become a viral campaign as generosity shifted from hyper-local events to the public sphere.

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Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a University Business staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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