By: Commentator Staff  | 

Third Giving Day Raises $5.7 Million Despite Steep Drop in Number of Donors

YU’s third Giving Day raised over $5.7 million from 1156 donors, exceeding its $5 million goal even while the total number of donors fell 61% from last year’s campaign. The 24-hour fundraising campaign was held on Sept. 18-19.

The number of donors this year represents a significant decline from the 3,004 donors who took part in the campaign in 2018 and the 2,700 donors who contributed to 2016’s Day of Giving. Several large donations were primarily responsible for the campaign raising $5.7 million, which surpassed 2018’s $4.5 million total, though still falling short of 2016’s $6 million.

11 people contributed over $100,000 each to the campaign, including one anonymous $1 million donation in its final minutes that pushed the campaign over its goal. These 11 donations totaled just over $4 million of the $5.7 million haul. This is in contrast to last year’s Giving Day, where the largest single donation was only $200,000, and over 1,000 donors made up the campaign’s final $1 million push.

The average donation this year was approximately $4,800, significantly higher than 2018’s $1,500 average. The top 20, 50 and 100 donations from this year raised 78, 89 and 94%, respectively, of the $5.7 million total.

The average donation this year was approximately $4,800, significantly higher than 2018’s $1,500 average. The top 20, 50 and 100 donors from this year raised 78, 89 and 94%, respectively, of the $5.7 million total.

Adam Gerdts, Vice President of Institutional Advancement explained, “Giving trends in higher education for the past several years have demonstrated that although charitable contributions are experiencing an increase in donation dollars, these dollars are coming from fewer donors.” According to Gerdts, this trend may have been responsible for the decrease in overall donations compared to past years.

Gerdts added, “Last Giving Day, we had a significant push for gifts from students of $1, $2, or $5.” He compared that to this year’s decision to “significantly engage more students as volunteers.”

However, promotion of this year’s campaign was smaller than in past years, with minimal branding on campus and the absence of a major theme such as “YU Hero,” which characterized 2018’s Giving Day.

On the campaign’s website, YU said this year’s theme was “completely about scholarships” for their students. “Scholarships are YU’s top priority,” Gerdts said. “We promise that no qualified student will be turned away for financial reasons. We disburse more than $46 million a year to undergraduate students to keep that promise, with 80 percent of YU students receiving scholarships, both need- and merit-based.”

When asked if all donations were specifically allocated towards scholarships, Gerdts explained, “YU Giving Day is dedicated to raising scholarships for our students across all our programs. However, if a donor has a strong commitment to a particular initiative, affiliate or center at YU — such as our academic centers or institutes, museum, athletics or library — we will make sure that their funds are directed as they request.”

With regard to the distribution of Giving Day’s accumulated $5.7 million, specific programs received earmarked funds; the largest amount for a YU program was raised by RIETS, with approximately $280,000, while YC pulled in about $30,000. SCW raised over $165,000 — mostly from a single donation of $100,000 — and SSSB ranked third of the undergraduate schools with only $5,600.

Beginning Wednesday afternoon, student volunteers gathered in Weissberg Commons as they surrounded tables lined with telephones and solicited donations over the phone. Students were incentivized to volunteer in the fundraising efforts with rewards such as AirPods for 35 calls made or a sweatshirt for 50 calls made. Shlomo Amsellem (SSSB ‘20), a student volunteer, shared, “I think it is a necessity for all students to give back to Yeshiva University like they have given to us. We need to support students of the present and the future.” 

Student volunteer Benjy Kleiner (YC ‘20) expressed his personal appreciation for YU. “As someone who does attend [YU] due to scholarship, I said I could give three hours or whatever amount of time just to get donations,” he explained. “It was a better use of time than doing nothing and watching Netflix.” 

In response to YU Giving Day, Jewish Queer Youth (JQY), which was a partner in organizing the LGBTQ March on the Wilf Campus on Sept. 15, launched a campaign of their own called #JQYUGIVE. On their Facebook page they explained, “This is an opportunity to send a message to YU. In lieu of or in addition to a donation to YU, consider supporting JQYU … an initiative to fund queer Jewish campus resources like the YU Pride Alliance.” This post came with parallel posters copying the design of YU’s own Giving Day graphics by mimicking its logo and messaging. 

Along the same lines, although officially unrelated to JQY, former YU employees and alumni shared their own campaign of #PledgeNotToPledge, pledging not to donate towards YU’s fundraising efforts until the university meets the five demands made by LGBTQ groups and students at the Sept. 15 March. The Facebook group of the “Pledge Not to Pledge” campaign amassed over 300 members, although not all the members were happy about the movement. Several students commented that although they support the overarching agenda, it is against students’ best interests and disrespectful to — ostensibly — poach funds from YU and scholarship recipients.

In 2019, YU awarded more than $91 million in scholarships — $46 million for undergraduate students and $45 million for graduate students. “Only about $20 million of that total amount is funded through existing philanthropy,” Gerdts explained. “That’s why philanthropic support for aid, which allows so many promising students to attend YU, is the most fundamental way for donors to invest in their success — and ours.”

Featured Photo Caption: Stern College for Women students call prospective donors on Giving Day.
Featured Photo Credit: YU News