‘One Tribe, One Day’ strives not just for money, but for community engagement

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Two students and an alpaca pose with a "thank you" sign during an event on campus Tuesday as part of the One Day One Tribe giving challenge (WYDaily/Courtesy Stephen Salpukas)
Two students and an alpaca pose with a “thank you” sign during an event on campus Tuesday as part of the One Day One Tribe giving challenge (WYDaily/Courtesy Stephen Salpukas)

On Wednesday William & Mary celebrated its sixth annual One Tribe, One Day event where students, faculty, alumni and community members made donations to the school all day long.

But the amount of donation isn’t what matters to William & Mary, it’s the participation.

“Any donation of any size is considered the same,” said Dan Frezza, associate vice president for lifetime philanthropic engagement and annual giving. “The purpose is to develop a culture of engagement and for people to come together through their giving.”

Participation have increased through the years — starting at 1,693 in the event’s first year to 13,000 this year.

Frezza said the donation amounts aren’t the focus of the day, but there is $690,000 at stake if the college meets its participation goals.

That means the school offered 10 challenges throughout the day that were leveraged with monetary donations to grow donor participation. Each challenge was sponsored by individual donors, Frezza said.

The event challenges ranged from $5,000 to $200,000 donations for each. In total the 10 challenges are set to raise $690,000 in addition to participant donations.

For example, many alumni, students and staff took to social media to post about their donations using the #OneTribeOneDay hashtag. Each public post with the hashtag earned a dollar of donor-matched funds up to $5,000.

“The day is about giving back and paying it forward,” Frezza added in an email. “We don’t ask for a specific amount or area, just simply that you participate. ”

Frezza said the donors come from all areas of the community including alumni, parents and members of the board of directors.

In 2018, the OTOD raised the school nearly $2.5 million total with 12,770 donors, according to the college’s website.

The funds raised from the day go to a variety of different resources at the college, and some donors made gifts to specific areas.

Over the years the event has allowed the school to increase scholarships through the Scholarships Impact Fund, enable the college to become a sponsor of the Global Film Festival, support Virginia Institute of Marine Science General Graduate Student Endowment and more.

Frezza said nationally, universities are starting their own days of giving more frequently in the past decade.

According to Council for Advancement and Support of Education, the days of giving have become fundamental in fundraising for higher education.

A study from the Blackbaud Institute, a philanthropic research company, showed that in 2017 the average amount of donors giving on those days was up 16.7 percent and expected to continue growing.

“Days of giving continue to be a significant trend in higher education fundraising, and the growth in these programs demonstrates their increased importance,” according to the study.

Frezza said the decision to start a day of giving came from a desire to create a different culture within the college community. Looking back 20 years ago, he said, people’s philanthropic efforts were focused on the local community, religious groups and their alma mater.

“As generations have evolved, there’s a wider menu of places to give support, so those top three have to be relevant,” he said. “And we want to showcase a desire to create a culture of engagement and philanthropy within the W&M community.”

The day had multiple events throughout campus to raise the donations, such as the dunk tank on the sunken gardens where students could make a donation of any size and vote to save the faculty or staff member from being dunked.

It is events like these that Frezza said shows the spirit of the day and brings the Tribe community together.

“We’ve done a great job of showing the impact and reasons for supporting,” Frezza said. “When you’ve effectively demonstrated the reason, it’s easy because donors want to make a difference.”

The school is still calculating its total participation from the day, but at the end of Tuesday the school was only 55 donors away from reaching its goal. Complete numbers should be released by the end of the week.

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