By: Judah Stiefel | Features  | 

An Ecosystem on Display—The YU Day of Giving

The most impressive element of Yeshiva University’s twenty-four-hour, Day of Giving fundraiser, may not have been the $4,538,847 donated to the university. The campaign was founded on and reflects the collaborative ethos under which Yeshiva University currently operates. Students, faculty, and donors were brought together to highlight the distinctive ecosystem of YU in which no element can exist without the support of the others. In a concentrated twenty-four-hour period, YU students from both undergraduate and graduate programs participated in reaching out over the phone to thousands of the university’s benefactors, both to converse and to politely request donations. By the end of the day, 3,008 individual contributions were made to the university.

The experience allowed students an opportunity to converse with many of the donors who make the university’s goals a reality. Yeshiva College senior Daniel Schwarz commented, “It was really nice to talk to some of the people that make my education possible. When I introduced myself over the phone as a YU student and got a warm response, I felt a real sense of pride for my university. It was kind of affirming.” Students interacted with the very people that support not only their education, but the values that Yeshiva University upholds, something that many of the students found to be very encouraging. Congruently, donors got to hear directly from students, giving them a first-hand sample of the potential that their contributions are fueling.

The marketing of the event involved three essential elements: objectives, strategy, and execution.

The objective of the event was mainly twofold. While fundraising was a platform of the event, those that planned the event saw the opportunity to inspire pride and devotion in the school as equally significant. The planners were also proud of the $4.5 million raised (the original goal was $3 million) and the fact that over 3,000 individuals contributed to the initiative. The student calls to donors were integral, as the objective was to integrate student voices into the process and plans. Student leaders were brought in to contribute ideas and amplify many of the components of the event.

Those involved strategized to center the event around the theme of “YU Heroes.” Vice President of Marketing and Communications Doron Stern said of the YU Hero theme, “It highlighted the student connection between the students, the university, and the donors. Bring everybody together in order to be successful. While students have the potential to be heroes, they can’t be super without the university and the donors. All three need each other. There’s something unique about the YU student, and the school provides the necessary environment for academic excellence, values, and a strong alumni network. Donors fuel the opportunity to have success.”

The success of the event speaks not only to the objectives and to the strategy, but also to the execution. Vice President Stern highlighted the importance of “engaging the constituents across touchpoints.” The event utilized multichannel marketing which involved everything from digital advertising, to on-campus advertising, to direct response marketing which involved messaging through telephone, mail, and the internet. A billboard was rented on the busy Route 4 highway in New Jersey. Students suggested ideas such as encouraging attendees of the university to post on social media, nominating their YU heroes, and using Snapchat filters to promote the event. The comprehensive approach created an exciting energy leading up to and carrying through the twenty-four-hour event. Promotional material also included videos featuring Mariano Rivera, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Senator Chuck Schumer, and actor Ben Schwartz. Deans and roshei yeshiva also contributed words of motivation.

While the multimedia approach ensured that the event reached a diverse crowd, the Day of Giving accomplished much more. Well-designed emblems and signs depicting YU heroes appeared all over campus and online, creating the impression that the event itself encompassed the campus and even those beyond it. Positioning advertisements for the events everywhere built the impression that the event was in fact too important to miss. It was something both students and donors wanted to be a part of. Vice President of Institutional Advancement Alyssa Herman said of the event, “[The goal was to] take the hero and bring it to the surface. It fit the vision of the new president. Take student skills and use it to improve the world.” It became an initiative that both students and donors wanted to be a part of—building heroes.

The event also demonstrates the importance that the university plays beyond the boundaries of its undergraduate and graduate campuses. As the flagship institution for Modern Orthodoxy in North America, YU plays a major role in the greater Modern Orthodox community. By connecting students with external elements, the YU Day of Giving demonstrated that not only does YU educate future community leaders, but that the university also directly interfaces with the Modern Orthodox world. YU is very much an organ in the greater community, interacting with its other vital elements, each of which is necessary in maintaining the whole. Perhaps more significant than the funding, though, was that the YU Day of Giving fostered cohesiveness from all fronts. Along the lines of the message of unity, various graduate schools of the university were closely involved in the event, including Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary (RIETS), Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, and Cardozo School of Law.