March 05, 2015

When it comes to showing the pride and love you feel for your alma mater, it’s not always about the amount you give as much as it is about the act of giving.

At midnight on March 19, WPI will launch its first ever Giving Day, a 24-hour giving marathon to encourage the entire WPI community, but especially alumni, to contribute back to the school. With a new president at the helm, a celebration of 150 years as a university, and a promise of a substantial gift to the university if enough people participate in Giving Day, WPI has a lot to celebrate.

“Giving Day is a university initiative seeking gifts from alumni and the campus community,” says Judy Jaeger, executive director of Advancement Events and Communications. The countdown to the big day has begun, and alumni are already hearing about WPI’s efforts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

Advancement office staff have been planning Giving Day details for months and already have a battalion of nearly 100 tech reps reaching out to their social networks and giving them a heads-up on all the excitement surrounding this new approach to university fundraising. Alumni can watch for social media updates and even some the old-fashioned way: snail mail.

“Every gift of any amount matters. If everyone gives a little bit, it adds up.” – Judy Jaeger, executive director of Advancement Events and Communications

The super-connected event will bring in alumni all over the world who will receive frequent participation and fundraising updates throughout the day and feel that real-time connection to campus activity. On campus, students will be busy making people aware of the goal and encouraging everyone to donate something. “Every gift of any amount matters,” says Jaeger. “If everyone gives a little bit, it adds up.”

Student representatives will hold court in the Rubin Campus Center from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. offering raffles and giveaways. Whiteboards will be available for people who want to jot down thoughts about why WPI is important to them and get a photo taken to be shared on social media. And, of course, everyone’s favorite party animal, Gompei, will be around between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Modeling Giving Day after a similar fundraising effort at Columbia University (the current gold standard of such events), Jennifer Gamache, director of annual giving, and Ashley Hubarcz, assistant director of annual giving, studied best practices of other successful Giving Days to find what might appeal to WPI’s nearly 36,000 alumni.

Giving Days are fairly new, says Gamache, as schools have noticed a steady decline in alumni participation in giving. In an effort to increase giving or at least keep it level, the excitement of Giving Day also has a ripple effect.

“Some schools do participation and money goals,” says Gamache. “We are focusing on getting as many participants as possible.” And while the final tally will support the Alden Trust Challenge and the Foisie Innovation Studio, the funding drive is hopefully the first of many Giving Days. Giving Day concludes at 11:59 p.m. and the final tally will be shared the following morning.

To help the challenge, an anonymous trustee has promised a large gift (in excess of $10,000, says Gamache) if 150 donors contribute a gift by noon on March 19. If the goal is reached before noon, it’s likely that another sizable gift will be added to the total. What matters to Giving Day organizers is that the WPI community at large comes together for the cause. “We don’t care how big or small a gift is,” says Gamache. Hubarcz agrees. “Anything to show your support,” she says.

And any faculty or staff member who donates at least $10 on March 19, may wear jeans to work on Friday, March 20.

Over the next couple of weeks, Giving Day Tech Reps will spread information and recruit others to be Tech Reps while they compete for prizes. On the line are incentives like a Proud Goat statue, a Gompei watch, and even a tailgating set, says Hubarcz. To sign up as a Tech Rep, go to

“This is a dual-purpose effort,” says Jaeger. “It’s outreach and education effort as much as a fundraising effort. WPI alumni care quite a bit about the university. They have positive feelings about the university and value the education they received here. And for the students, this shows that part of coming to WPI is giving back.”