Though students may envision the average University donor as an established alum or wealthy adult, University development officers are trying to tap into a new constituency — students.

In December, Giving Blueday — a University fundraising event that generated more than $3 million, of which students raised $1 million, during a 24-hour period — devoted special attention to reaching student donors.

For the last five years, the University has tracked data on how students donate, as well as their knowledge of how the University collects and uses funds, namely through an annual survey administered by the Office of Development.

This year, the questions on the survey access student awareness of University fundraising, the impact of small donations and ongoing development events at the University — such as Giving Blueday and the University’s $4 billion fundraising campaign, Victors for Michigan.

Kat Walsh, director of student engagement for the Office of Development, said the survey is important because it helps them identify specific areas of focus to prompt student donations.

“There’s a difference between saying ‘I’m aware of that and I don’t want to participate’ and ‘I didn’t even know that that existed and I wish that I had,’ ” Walsh said.

Over the course of administering the survey, Walsh said she’s found that more students see the value in small donations, such as a $20 gift. However, she said the data also points to room for improvement, including educating students on the University’s status as a non profit institution. Walsh said 40 percent of students believe the University is for profit.

She said the development team sees value in collecting the data because it helps them understand ways to better inform students on the importance of philanthropy.

“We know that a lot of students are unaware of the roles that private philanthropy plays at the University, and how private philanthropy impacts students experiences,” Walsh said. “It’s really important for us to understand what students are aware of, what they’re not aware of, what their opinions are because it’s important to us to develop programming that will help benefit students’ education and their involvement in philanthropy.”

During the Giving Blue Day fundraiser, students were encouraged to donate to University units, including student organizations, to receive matching gifts from private donors. About 80 student organizations fundraised more than $157,000.

The top five fundraisers were Dance Marathon, the Michigan Marching Band, the Medical School’s Student-Run Free Clinic, Alternative Spring Break and MUSIC Matters.

Though student donors may have been most prominently featured during Giving Blue Day, Walsh said student donors have long contributed to the University’s development efforts. Walsh’s job is to help student organizations fundraise, and in particular, help them appeal to potential student donors on campus.

“Donors range from undergrad to doctoral students, and are representative of the various passions that exist across the campus,” she said.

For many students, she said the incentive to donate stems from their interest in the work of the student organizations.

“Everyone can’t take care of patients themselves, but they can make a gift that will make that happen,” Walsh said. “They may not be able to go fix up houses in the inner city, but they can support an organization that can do that. That’s what all of our donors do: they make things happen, and our students realize that they can make things happen through philanthropy whether as donors or whether as fundraisers, and, in some cases, both.”

However, many organizations find it difficult to track the amount of student donations they receive each year because of the various ways that they raise money, in addition to the fact that most do not keep track of how much specifically students donate.

LSA junior Macauley Rybar, the external director of Dance Marathon, said the organization often faces a similar problem. Because of the way DMUM is set up, where dancers are personally responsible to meet an individual funding goal of $300, he said there is really no way to track who donates what amount.

In contrast, Giving Blueday provided them the unique opportunity to track donations because the student-donated funds were matched.

“The first time we received anything close to (trackable funds) was on Giving Blueday of this year, because we were able to track student donation due to the student matching funds available for student organizations,” Rybar said.

Some student organizations also allow students to donate directly to other students, as opposed to external causes or activities.

MUSIC Matters, founded in 2011, holds an annual charity concert each year as well as SpringFest. Together, the events raise money to not only bring in popular artists, but to give back to various aspects of the University community.

In their first year, the group raised $10,000 to donate to Mott Children’s Hospital. In their second year, they raised $50,000 to create a need-based scholarship for in-state students entering the University. For the past two years, the organization allocated donations toward the creation of a camp for underserved Detroit youth.

MUSIC Matters President Darren Appel, a Business senior, said the group employs a two-tiered approach: continuing to support the scholarship, while also supporting a separate cause each year.

“When you endow a scholarship at U of M, the money you donate goes into the investment fund at the University, and the interest made off of that gets donated each year,” Appel said. “The first year will be just one student, but our plan long-term is to keep donating. We’ll have a major cause each year for the concert, but then as we keep growing and making more money, we can keep dumping money into the fellowship each year, so it will keep growing.”

However, regardless of family wealth, many students report finding themselves without extra money to donate.

First-year Medical student Molly Laux, who heads outreach and public relations for the Student-Run Free Clinic, said the donations are even more meaningful when students with limited funds still choose to give back.

“Even when they are small donations, we feel really privileged to receive them,” she said. “I think that because of that, it makes us work very hard to make sure that student voices are heard in things that we do, and for that we always try to make sure that we can keep as many volunteer positions open as possible, get as many students in. We bring students in as interpreters sometimes. We understand that when students do give us that extra money that they maybe saved for a few days or a few weeks, that we really do our best to make sure that we can do something in return.”

Laux added that by donating their time as well, students have an enhanced chance to see the importance of their contributions.

“When the students are able to come in and kind of see where their money goes, they can see our patients and see how grateful they are for the services that we provide,” Lauz said. Not only does that make them feel proud of the donation that they originally gave, but I think that gives them a greater incentive to donate more when they can.”

Most donations to the Student-Run Free Clinic go toward renting out the space for their medical center; the rest funds equipment, medications and other supplies.

The organization raised $13,528 on Giving Blueday. Laux said she attributed much of that to the work of the Office of Development, noting the ability to work both with Walsh’s team and another specifically for medical students.

“They’ve been such a great help,” Laux said. “(They) helped me figure out what the best ways of strategizing the posts, and she helped me find personal stories we could use, and helped me find the most effective means of transmitting information in time, drawing attention to our e-mails. They were completely fantastic.”

Business senior Kimberly Cui, finance and fundraising team leader for Alternative Spring Break, also noted the advantages of having access to Office of Development resources.

“(Walsh) and her team are definitely really helpful,” she said. “They’re really open to meet up with even student organizations about fundraising ideas and kind of the best way to fundraise. We’re definitely hoping to work more with them in the future.”

MUSIC Matters also works closely with the Office of Development.

“Our model is more teaching students how to fundraise as a whole,” Appel said. “We do a lot of fundraising at the University, we reach out to corporate sponsors, we have a lot of students learning how to make a pitch book, learning how to present an idea to a corporation, things like that.”

In the future, Walsh said her team is interested in continuing to work with organizations through initiatives like Giving Blueday. In this year’s version of the annual student survey, two questions were added specifically on Giving Blueday with the aim of improving involvement next year.

In addition, University representatives met with student organizations to garner feedback after the event.

“What we learned from our sessions with student orgs was they thought the energy of the day was really great,” Walsh said. “They felt that the training and the resources that we provided was really great, and they loved the challenges. Some of the things they felt we could improve on are, for instance, making sure that our training is available online, because they come and attend and they want to share it with members of their organizations.”

Cui also noted the importance of students developing a habit of donating early on.

“For us, it’s almost more important that students are giving,” Cui said. “We really value their donation, because when you start while you’re in college, you really care about the issue, you want to be active about that issue in the community. So for us, starting young, it shows that you’re passionate about the issue, you’re empowered to support programs that you believe in, and then we also believe that if you start now, the likelihood that you’ll continue to be involved in the future is a lot higher.”

Cui said the majority of ASB funds go toward the vehicles that are used on the trip, but the funds are also used to cover housing for volunteers as well as gas.

Appel said student donations not only play an important role in University development, but also provide chances for students to contribute to the University community.

“As a whole, there’s a really great opportunity for students too,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how much they donate, but being able to donate and give to a cause, I think it’s important for the University and it just leaves people with a good feeling.”

Correction appended: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Giving Blueday raised $1 million.

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