The University’s Office of Development distributed thousands of free t-shirts Wednesday — with just one catch.
To receive one of the blue shirts with the words “Hail yeah!” printed across the front, students were asked to fill out a postcard thanking an individual University donor — all of whom had made small gifts under $50 — for their contribution to the University.
Around 4,500 students filled out postcard thank-you notes and received a free t-shirt at one of the more than a dozen Hail Yeah stations located around campus. The Alumni Association and 15 University units participated, including multiple colleges and the Office of Financial Aid.
Kat Walsh, director for student engagement at the University’s Office of Development, said the goal of the event served to remind students that every gift matters and that alumni and students can have an impact even with $10 or $20 donations.
“We’re specifically focused on alumni because we want students to see themselves as future supporters of the University,” she said. “This is a part of the Victors for Michigan campaign because we want them to know they can play a huge role in reaching the campaign’s goals.”
Though the Office of Development holds the Hail Yeah student engagement event annually, this year’s incarnation occurs in the midst of the $4 billion Victors for Michigan fundraising campaign, which launched in November.
Compared to previous campaigns, Victors for Michigan has refocused attention on engaging students, both as a means to encourage donors to give toward financial aid and to help students understand the role development plays in their experience at the University.
Walsh said students contributed to the planning and implementation of Wednesday’s event, as well as the campaign’s kickoff community festival in November that drew thousands to Ingalls Mall for musical performances, food and giveaways. She said this level of student campaign engagement is unprecedented.
“This campaign is really about creating experiences here on the Michigan campus for current students,” she said. “This is really a way to engage students, to thank alumni who are part of the campaign and to thank students.”
Katy Wallander, assistant director of student philanthropy, said student-driven events like Hail Yeah resonate more effectively with the campus community.
“This campaign is really about creating experiences here on the Michigan campus for current students,” she said. “This is really a way to engage students and to thank alumni who are part of the campaign.”
Walsh said a handout like t-shirts are another way to thank students who have contributed or helped fundraise $1.5 million for University development.
Beside featuring and engaging students at events, campaign strategists have placed a fundraising emphasis on student support — with a goal of raising $1 billion dedicated to student support.
LSA junior Jennifer Sylvester filled out a thank-you postcard at one of the tables inside the Chemistry Building Wednesday.
“I have a scholarship here and it’s really meant a lot to me, so everything helps to help another student be able to go here and have an amazing experience,” she said.
Though the promise of a free shirt initially attracted her to the table, LSA freshman Katie Washagan said she recognizes the importance of donors helping to improve the student experience.
“Without them my experience wouldn’t have been the same — and it’s been incredible so far,” she said. “Every little bit counts. It doesn’t matter if you donate even five dollars — I feel like it will go to something great.”