Building a better tomorrow through Giving Day

Illustration by Colton Starley

State dollars only go so far when it comes to funding important research, rigorous programs and scholarships for students at NAU. This is where private philanthropy steps in to help fund these projects that make the NAU experience one to remember. For the first time ever NAU will host Giving Day, May 1.

Giving Day Project Manager Megan Gray explained what exactly the event represents. She said it is a multi-channel campaign with the main focus on an online fundraiser.

“It is a web-based 24-hour fundraiser to raise money for the programs, priorities and mainly the students,” Gray said. “But the whole big picture is that it’s a great day to celebrate NAU.”

On Giving Day there will be tables set up in front of Cline Library, the du Bois Center, the Health and Learning Center and the Student Union from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to raise awareness for the cause. The tables will have cookies and an opportunity to donate if one chooses to do so. However, the main focus is the online fundraiser, which allows people to donate to various organizations and research projects on the NAU Giving Day site. The website also features interactive components like matches and challenges such as the one set up by the education department.

“The College of Education is a great example,” Gray said. “They have a $5,000 match that as a leadership team is coming together to donate back to the School of Education by matching dollar for dollar anyone else’s donation.”

Students may also notice Louie the Lumberjack floating around campus May 1 and sharing what Giving Day represents. In the evening students will hold “thank you” signs up at the corner of Butler Avenue and Milton Road to give thanks to the community for supporting NAU and Giving Day.

Another big way to engage with this event is by taking part in Giving Day through social media. There will be plenty of social media challenges on various NAU affiliated social media accounts. Those who participate have the opportunity to win money that they can give to the organization of their choosing. These social media challenges are also a great way for alumni to get involved no matter where they live or what they do.

Michelle Gardner, communication coordinator for the Office of Alumni Engagement, shared how Giving Day is centered around the entire Lumberjack community — past, present and future.

“I think a day like this is a celebration for all Lumberjacks everywhere,” Gardner said. “This is a day where we can all be a Jack who gives back, even if it’s only $5.”

Gardner explained that through social media, past students, online students and students who attend campuses outside of Flagstaff can be a part of this special day. Alongside the social media challenges, emails and social media content samples are sent out to those affiliated with NAU. By doing this, all Lumberjacks can share their NAU pride and help get people to donate to the current and future students.

When trying to find the perfect date for the event, Gray spoke with other schools who have hosted Giving Days in the past and learned that picking an important date can help to build school spirit.

“We picked May 1, and we didn’t pick that out of nowhere,” Gray said. “We thought having a day that was significant to the university would be great. On May 1, 1966, we changed our name to Northern Arizona University.”

Many people worked toward bringing Giving Day to NAU and it took about a year of planning. Director of Annual Giving Beth Hickey said the main goal in planning the event was to make sure that everyone is engaged and inspired. This meant reaching out to faculty, students, programs and especially alumni. Private donors can donate to the programs or research opportunities of their choosing.

“For alumni, it’s about remembering the great experience they had as students and helping them better understand how they can create that same experience for students today,” Hickey said.

Hickey stressed the importance of involving the community in Giving Day. This means student, faculty and alumni involvement, but also includes the Flagstaff community as a whole. Hickey said so many Flagstaff residents attend events on the NAU campus such as the symphony and other creative arts. With so many people connected to NAU in some way, Giving Day is also a day to make people feel appreciated and included.

“Skipping your morning coffee for a day and giving that money back to your alma mater can make a lasting impact on generations of Lumberjacks,” Gardner said. “So I think Giving Day honors our past while helping build a future for our future.”