By 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 14, Northern Arizona University’s third annual Giving Day was well underway. At that time, $371,857 had been raised, and several challenges had been unlocked or nearly unlocked. Tantalizingly close to being unlocked was the DeMund Foundation’s challenge that would support first-generation students and programs—just a few more gifts would release a whopping $30,000 donation and mean more students served. When an email encouraging donations in the final hours was sent to the Lumberjack community, an NAU employee and alumna saw it as the perfect opportunity to give—her donation was the 60th to a first-generation fund, unlocking that $30,000 donation and exponentially increasing the power of all the donations that went into it.
“The DeMund Foundation has a long history of providing scholarships to Arizona universities,” said Stephen F. Clarke, president of The DeMund Foundation. “We are very excited to support First Scholars at NAU and help create a campus of excellence through first-generation programs. Our commitment is to improve student outcomes and to have a meaningful impact on the lives of these trail-blazing students as they forge new paths for themselves and their families. We are humbled that our gift inspired others to do the same during NAU Giving Day, maximizing the impact for first-generation students.”
The first-generation funds that benefitted from this and other challenges were among the nearly 470 funds that received donations throughout the 24-hour giving period. In total, 1,400 gifts from Lumberjacks throughout the world brought in almost $500,000, including the 37 matches and challenges that raised more than $240,000. This year, gifts were 20 percent higher, with dollars donated up more than 70 percent from NAU’s first Giving Day just two years ago.
“The support for NAU and the involvement of the community in Flagstaff and throughout the world speaks to the connection Lumberjacks have to our university,” President Rita Cheng said. “This year’s efforts show the hope we have for a bright future, and I am grateful for the Lumberjacks throughout the world and their generous gifts that will help our current and future students be the leaders we need in our global society.”
Another fund to receive notable support was Louie’s Cupboard, NAU’s on-campus food pantry, which supports Lumberjacks and northern Arizona community members who are experiencing food insecurity. Fifty-one donors, including NAU president-designate José Luis Cruz, contributed a total of $6,300 to the cupboard. After the 50th donation, the Student Giving Challenge—created by President Cheng; Erin Grisham, vice president of Student Affairs; and the Student Philanthropy Council, a student-run club that works to build a culture of philanthropy and volunteerism on campus—was unlocked, releasing another $6,500 to help ensure the pantry remains stocked for anyone in need.
“Giving Day is truly a team effort, and our success is because of everyone,” said Megan Gray, assistant director of digital fundraising, speaking not only to the donors, but the more than 100 student, faculty, staff and community volunteers who helped make this year’s day of giving such a success. “Giving Day is an opportunity for the community to unite and support our students. There is no corner of the university that does not benefit from the generosity of Lumberjack donors—scholarships, student clubs, research, etc. Giving Day shows the impact one gift can have, no matter the amount, and when we unite, we can really make a difference together.”
In addition to volunteers from the Student Philanthropy Council (who delivered Jacks Packs and held promotional signs), ASNAU (who hosted a booth at the union to share Giving Day with students, encouraging 112 student gifts—a 128 percent increase from 2019), the NAU Alumni Association Board and campus partners, The Lumberjack Engagement Center sent 1,150 personalized thank-you videos to donors.
Gray said the money raised and collaboration seen across campus far exceeded her expectations.
“It’s so inspiring to see our community come together for a collective Axe of Kindness, and it’s especially inspiring knowing there is a lasting impact beyond one day.”
Visit the NAU Advancement | Foundation website to make a gift anytime.
Carly Banks | NAU Communications
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