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24-hour donation event at Western is focusing on helping students who were affected by the pandemic

Nate Gaines promotes the upcoming WWU Give Day Event on Nov. 6, 2019. // Photo courtesy of Rhys Logan.

By Becca Dudek

Every year, Western hosts a 24-hour fundraiser called WWU Give Day. Due to its online nature, the current pandemic didn’t affect the functionality of the event. Instead, the upcoming event on May 28 is focused on raising funds for students in programs who are affected by the pandemic.

Daryn Vorderbruegge, Western’s Assistant Director of Annual Giving and Alumni Memberships, said this event has occurred for the past four years (this year being the fifth), but she’s only been present for three of the years. Vorderbruegge said the event was designed to help bring the community together to raise funds for programs to use at their own discretion.

“One of our main missions is to provide a philanthropic community on campus and encourage students, faculty, staff and departments to fundraise,” Vorderbruegge said. “One, to support students and better their education and their learning experiences when they’re at Western and to two, engage friends, family and community members.”

Vorderbruegge said it’s a time where students can volunteer to do things on campus to encourage fundraising (this year promoting is online due to the pandemic).

Vorderbruegge said that due to the fundraising only occurring during a 24-hour window one day a year, people are encouraged to donate more.

Vorderbruegge said the funds raised every year have increased. Last year raised more than $730,000 with 2,126 donors. She doesn’t know what this year will look like, but their goal is $785,000 and 2,300 donors.

Vorderbruegge said the pandemic has caused many students and community members to lose their job, but those who are working may be more likely to donate more given the circumstances. Vorderbruegge said she doesn’t want students who are tight on funds to feel inclined to donate, as she feels they should always take care of themselves first.

“We’ll see if it’s more successful or less successful. This is our first pandemic so we’re navigating through it, as well as everyone else, and we don’t have expectations other than to just continue to do our jobs and let people decide if it works for them this year or not,” Vorderbruegge said.

Vorderbruegge said this fundraiser was started alongside many other fundraisers nationwide but differs from others, as they have a matching pole, and every percentage of a donation is matched. A matching pole is when someone vows to match donations up to a certain point and the percentage matching is a way to raise more money, Vorderbruegge said.

“Last year it was 17% so if you gave $100, your gift was actually $117 — which is just free money,” Vorderbruegge said.

Vorderbruegge said the Western Washington University Foundation fundraises months in advance to help fill their donation pool in order to be able to match donations during the event.

Vorderbruegge said these percentages are determined after the event is done as they calculate what percentage would be appropriate depending on their raised funds. There is also a leaderboard system in which the top five groups will receive an extra $1,000, Vorderbruegge said.

“There is also a 2:1 student match from a generous donor. So the first $5,000 raised by students will be matched 2:1,” Vorderbruegge said.

Austin Mellinger, Western’s Racing project manager and team captain, said in an email that WWU Racing placed third on the leaderboard last year and raised $48,633 from 117 different donors. Mellinger said the group has participated in the event every year.

“These annual events are extremely important to clubs like us as it is a way to market our program and raise awareness to who we are and what we do,” Mellinger said. “Our annual work cycle and this experience would not be possible without the funds raised on Viking [WWU] Give day.”

Mellinger said the pandemic caused competitions to shut down and thus the team cannot race the cars they built but hope to use the funds to make sure next year’s team has all the tools they need.

“The entire team is heartbroken that they won't get to see their hard work in its final form at our usual annual competition this year, but we are adapting and making the most out of this situation that we can,” Mellinger said.

Associated Students Club Manager Jenn Cook said in an email that many clubs rely on this type of funding to help support their operations and activities as clubs are not allocated funds each year. Cook said these fundraisers help raise a lot of money in a short amount of time for the clubs.

“Some clubs don’t need funds at all, they are a social space for like-minded students and/or enhancing their learning outside of the classroom,” Cook said. “However, some clubs are really active and need funds to put on programs, travel for competitions and performances, and attend conferences.”

Cook said that matching the funds is good motivation for people to donate, as sometimes the matching can be double what the person originally donated. Cook said the AS clubs can each be individually donated to, but if someone donates in the general AS club pool, then it goes to the AS general fund. All clubs have access to this fund, and it is used for items like bake sale supplies, hot water dispensers and canopy tents.

“Clubs have not been able to do typical fundraisers such as bake sales out on Vendors Row. Every penny helps!” Cook said in an email.

Phaedra Booth, director of Development at Huxley College of the Environment, said in an email that Huxley participates in WWU Give Day because it’s a way to reinforce and build the community and a way to help fund valuable programs, labs or seminars.

“Through our donor’s support, Give Day funds help us ensure that students have the kinds of experiences that make a degree from Huxley College a unique and highly-regarded accomplishment,” Booth said.

Booth said this event allows Huxley alumni to give back to the college if desired and she believes that many seem to be excited to donate to specific programs and give back to the community that helped them establish their careers.

“Being a Huxley alum is already innately a meaningful connection and I like to think this is part of the glue that keeps us all together. Once a Huxley alum, always a Huxley alum,” Booth said.

Booth said Huxley is planning to use the raised funds on their 50th Anniversary Access Scholarship (which is designed to help low-income and underserved students), Climate Innovation Fund (which addresses the climate crisis in research and outreach programs), Huxley College on the Peninsulas and Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry program (in which the funds will pay for lab supplies, stipends and travel expenses).

“We need our Huxley research and graduates to keep the momentum on [environmental research from environmental shifts this pandemic has allowed to happen] this and not let up. We simply cannot go back to the old norm, we cannot survive as a species,” Booth said.

Booth said Huxley Dean Steven Hollenhorst will distribute the general Huxley donations. She sees an equitable distribution, but the specific dollar value can vary year-to-year. Booth said Huxley raised $5,810 last year. Overall in the past four years, they have raised $24,000.

Out of the areas they are funding for, Booth said the scholarship fund is important in order to keep students on the college path due to job losses and housing issues like eviction that the pandemic has created.

“We're all in this, together, and we will rise and start our new path forward. Give yourself and others patience in the present and we will start anew. Together,” Booth said.

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