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Facilitating Student Participation During Give N Day

In this episode of Giving & Gabbing, we connect with Nicholls State University’s Giving Day planning team – Jeremy Becker, the Executive Director of Nicholls Foundation; Hillary Charpentier, Development Director; and Katherine Mabile, Director of Alumni Affairs to discuss how they facilitate student participation during Give N Day.

Give N Day has seen significant growth year-over-year in dollars raised as more students become involved in the day. During its most recent Giving Day on March 2, 2021, they raised over $183,000, an 85% increase from their 2020 event, with 89 participating organizations receiving funds. 

This success can partly be attributed to their dedication to not just making this Giving Day about engaging alumni and big donors, but putting an emphasis on student involvement and participation. During Give N Day, student groups are given the opportunity to fundraise and steward donors on their own behalf.

This not only instills a greater sense of pride and ownership within these organizations but also teaches Nicholls students valuable skills with real-life applications. Additionally, by getting more groups involved, alumni are able to make their gifts to the same initiatives that they were once a part of and still resonate most with. 

“We were hoping …to have [students] fundraise in a professional manner, where they’d be able to really make an impact on their own organizations.” – Jeremy Becker

Throughout this interview, the Nicholls State team shares how they are able to engage with participating student organizations and ensure they are set up for success on Give-N-Day. They provide their students with clear guidelines and expectations but still allow space for them to find creative ways to show off their unique initiatives. 

“We love working one on one with those organizations to brainstorm and come up with things that will really benefit them” – HillaryCharpentier

There is also an emphasis on educating participating students around donor stewardship. The Give N Day team remains involved with these groups long after the Giving Day comes to a close to ensure that donors are properly cared for. It is critical that these students understand the role that donor stewardship plays in any successful campaign. Sending thank-you notes and following up on how funds are being used significantly increase the chance for repeat donations year-over-year!

“We also ask that our student organizations and our campus departments thank donors within 24 hours.” – Katherine Mabile

To keep Give N Day exciting, the Nicholls’ team also provides opportunities throughout the day to engage with their student organizations. This Giving Day is all about celebrating Nicholls and highlighting the many incredible initiatives across campus.

In 2021, The Give N Day team launched their Peel & Win Game set up in front of their Union on March 2. During this event, names of participating student groups were pulled from a hat. If their group was called, a representative would go to the Peel & Win wall to select a sticker and reveal a cash prize.

Participants felt recognized and celebrated for their part in Give N Day, and it motivated other student groups to play a more active role in future Giving Days.

In this episode of Giving & Gabbing, our guests from Nicholls State University discuss:

  • What first inspired Nicholls State University to host a Giving Day, and how their strategies have changed year-over-year 
  • Their experience working with a dedicated Project Manager at GiveGab 
  • The role that student groups play in fundraising during Give N Day
  • Why granting students ownership over their individual campaigns is beneficial to them and the Giving Day team at large
  • Advice for colleges who are searching for new ways to engage their donors and supporters through their Giving Day

Check out the full interview with Jeremy Becker, Hillary Charpentier, and Katherine Mabile on Facilitating Student Involvement During Your Giving Day by:

Reading the interview transcript

Watching the live interview video recording

Listening to our Giving & Gabbing Podcast episode

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Podcast episodes include nonprofit communication and marketing strategies and interviews with fundraising professionals from across the nonprofit and education sectors.

Interview Transcript

Karin: Hi, I’m Karin and I’m the Marketing Coordinator here at GiveGab. We are thrilled to share another insightful episode of Giving & Gabbing with you all. Today we’re joined by three special guests from Nicholls State University. We have Jeremy Becker, the Executive Director of Nicholls Foundation, Hillary Charpentier, Development Director, and Katherine Mabile, Director of Alumni Affairs

Thank you all for joining us! Nicholls State University hosts its annual Giving Day, Give N Day, every spring, to rally support around various initiatives across campus. And during their most recent Give N Day on March 2, 2021, they raised over $183,000, which is an 85% increase from their 2020 event, with 89 of participating organizations receiving funds.

Joining me from the GiveGab team, we have Nickie, one of our Project Coordinators, with over 10 years of experience in higher education. Nickie, you want to say hi to everyone out there?


Nickie: Hi all, thanks for joining us!


Karin: Throughout this past year, Nickie has worked closely with the NSU team to make sure they continued to grow their Giving Day efforts on our platform. In this episode, we’ll be diving into how NSU has made current student participation an integral part of Give N Day, as well as provide advice to other higher education institutions who are interested in connecting their students in the same capacity.

And with that, we’ll get started with our first question to really dive in and learn more about how they were so successful. Um, so could you all share a little bit about your university’s history around Give N Day? What inspired the university to host a Giving Day in the first place? And what were your initial goals when you first got started?


Jeremy: The way the university started with having our day of giving is when I came on board four years ago and saw the potential of it. My previous position, we did a similar day of giving, and I thought we would have the potential to do it on campus. And additionally, you know, with the foundation, we have a lot of student organizations that would ask us for support. And it wasn’t tremendous amounts, it might have been a few hundred dollars here, or even a few thousand dollars. Where, could we give it to them? Yes, but what are we doing, what are we doing to teach them to fundraise or to do things?

You know, I was an undergrad, got my undergrad and Master’s here and being a part of those organizations and seeing how we would fundraise, you know, would basically be a bake sale in the student union or something very simple. So we were hoping is, what can we do for our organizations to have them fundraise in a professional manner, where they’d be able to really make an impact on their own organizations. And instead of them just coming to ask for money. So that was kind of the inspiration behind it, that we wanted to give all campus organizations that opportunity. Also, we knew, with the development…history on campus, we wanted to start engaging more people, engaging more alums, and the best way to get to that is through our students. So we knew if we can get a tremendous amount of our student organizations participating, then an alum who was part of that organization when they were on campus here, would be more willing to give back. 

So that was kind of the inspiration behind it, that we wanted to get our campus organizations departments, give the ability for them to participate, but then to also give the alums that opportunity to donate to something very specific on campus, not that it would go to, say, a general fund and then it gets, you know, the funds get decided on how they’re used by administration. This way, the alum has all the voice saying, you know, my donation’s going directly to this organization I want to support.


Karin: Gotcha. That’s really interesting to hear, and it makes sense that your initial goal was to help them learn how to fundraise on their own. I think that sets a really good foundation for those organizations being so involved in the fundraising efforts. It makes sense why you’ve been so successful in that way.


Jeremy: And just to add, that first year, you asked the question about what was one of the goals. One of the goals was to get about 75 or so organizations to participate, and to raise about $50,000, uh, to help them out. And in that first year, we had close to 100 organizations participate, which, most of them had no clue what they were doing, but, we got them, pushed along, helped them along, and I think that first year we raised about $85,000 or so.


Karin: Wow!

Nickie: You’ve definitely grown, obviously. You’ve just celebrated your fourth annual Give N Day, um, how, I mean, you’ve been there for a few years and you have a history of you know, knowing how the fundraising efforts have been and have grown throughout the years at Nicholls…so how can you explain that they’ve grown throughout the years, your fundraising efforts, and maybe like where your priorities shifted, you know, over the last four years as Give N Day’s grown?


Hillary: Well I think Jeremy touched on this a little bit earlier in talking about the fact that student organizations would come to the foundation or the Office of Development and ask for these smaller requests, the things they wanted to use for them, and so what it’s done for us as a university is it’s allowed us to think more strategically as a whole, and shift those smaller asks to our day of giving, we’re giving them all the tools that they need to be successful, we’re helping them, you know, figure out what their goals are and how they’re going to spend the money, and things that the donors are going to be really excited about. And then we’re allowing our organizations to raise funds for what they need and the foundation and the development office are able to focus more on the big picture project.

So, things that at other universities might fall within an annual fund, or if it’s a building project, or scholarship dollars, or things of that nature, that really, we need to be focusing on for more strategic asks, that’s kind of how we’ve transitioned what we’re doing, um, as far as the university goes. But priorities, you know, just making sure that the students have a platform is so important to us, because we never want to hinder that fundraising spirit, we don’t want to tell our students “no,” we don’t want to not be able to, you know, give them the funds they need to be successful and do the really great things that make their college experience really the well-rounded full college experience we offer at Nicholls, so that’s kind of just been the catalyst and the platform for us as our day of giving.


Nickie: I think, you know, you’re on the right path in introducing philanthropy and fundraising to students, um, early on in their college career, because eventually they’ll become alums and they’ll become supporters and hopefully one day, they’ll be supporting this giving day or supporting your fundraising efforts for the future, so starting that process while they’re students is super important, and of course I’m sure your alums like to see everything that the students are doing and just the fact that they’re helping raise funds for the university so early I think is really inspiring as well.


Hillary: And I think too, you know, it’s neat, with the things the student organizations come up with that they want to raise funds for are usually things that are visible to the outside person that’s not on campus. We can then highlight and show, hey, this is what your dollars were used for, and because they’re so excited to get those projects kicked off, it’s not usually a long turnaround from the time that the dollars come into when the organizations are spending those dollars and actually implementing what it is they wanted to raise funds for. So I think that’s another great thing for stewardship as well, so that the donor sees the impact of Give N Day across campus and how it’s touching every corner and every student, and I think that’s another reason why people continue to come back year after year and our goal just keeps getting higher and higher.


Karin: That’s wonderful. Do you all provide, you know, direct help to those organizations with their stewardship process, like how did they learn how to follow up? Because I think what you said is a great point, when you follow up quickly to donors and say hey, this is what we used your funds for, look what cool what program or initiative we were able to do with this, I think that’s a wonderful idea and we’ve found it to be super successful when we see organizations do that. And I’m just curious how your organizations learned that process and how to do that and how much hand holding you had to do maybe in the beginning and how independent they are now.


Hillary: I’ll let Katherine touch on that, that’s her favorite part.


Karin: I saw the laugh, I was like, she has a good answer for this one!


Katherine: So we believe in touching our donors in several ways, so they get that immediate thank you once they donate, they get one from the foundation, but we also ask that our student organizations and our campus departments thank donors within 24 hours. So whether that’s reaching out with personal phone calls or writing thank-you notes, so we will actually provide, um, branded thank you notes to our students and we take care of the postage and the mailing. All they have to do is write to their donors, explaining what the money was used for, thanking them for their contribution, and we also encourage that year-round involvement. So then we will produce videos and things like that, showing, you know, our donors what we’ve done with the funds and it just kind of grows from there.


Jeremy: What I’m anxious to do this year to see, and I hate to say something like this when we don’t have the results yet, but what we’re gonna try to do…I’ve been putting in seeds, so to speak…with some of our organizations, you know, the great thing about when you do a day of giving, your contact info, you have everyone’s email address, well hopefully you have everyone’s good email address. So what we’re gonna do with the timing of when our event takes place, what I’m encouraging all, a lot of our organizations to do, is to create something in November, where they will be able to email their donors as a way of thanksgiving, at this time of Thanksgiving, whatever verbiage they prefer to use, but then show how the funds that were donated earlier in the year have already made an impact on that organization. And I, you know, what’s going to happen, I can see it, they’re either going to get another gift immediately from that, but we’re also going to have them promote our next year day of giving, which will be in March. So it’ll be, you know, get ready, you’re gonna make another gift in you know, four months, but it might be, wow, I’m impressed with what you did, it’s the end of the year, I want to make another gift before the year ends, how can I get you some more funds before the year ends? 

So, the ones, the organizations I’ve told that with they’re already thinking of how they’re gonna put this email together and I’m like guys, it’s April, you have time. No, we’re working on it already. It’s great that they’re strategically thinking of how they’re gonna thank their donors but also what they’re gonna ask for next year because they know their donors are gonna get excited. So from our end, that’s what I like seeing, I like seeing how they’re thinking more than just a week ahead. They’re planning out a year ahead on how they’re gonna use their funds and contact their donors.


Katherine: And it continues that year-round engagement, that is so important. It’s not just that month, it’s year-round.


Karin: That’s incredible. You are helping people to become professional fundraisers, seriously. That’s really impressive!


Jeremy: Not so much professional fundraisers, just professionals. We were talking earlier as a group and one thing I always harp on, especially when I go back and look at my days in college, a lot of things that stick with me are things I didn’t learn in the classroom per se. And you know, when you go to college, yes, you’re gonna learn the academic side, but what are you gonna learn outside? What are you gonna carry on that will help you that you don’t learn in a textbook? Or in this case, on a computer, as things… technology advances. So what can we do? I go back to one of my professors saying this and the guy, it still holds true today, you know, it doesn’t matter how well you know the business owner if you’re gonna go speak to someone in a sales call or even just, you know, any kind of world. If you’re not nice and/or professional to the office assistant, you know, they’re gonna block you. It’s just a simple lesson of, just be nice, no matter who you’re dealing with. And in this case, what we’re trying to do is just teach people hey, personal interaction. You know, someone gave funds to you, you know, don’t take it for granted. That $100 that someone gave to your organization or that $20 could be a lot to them, and you need to treat that with respect, that’s how I want them to look at it.

Now, from a development standpoint, we want to start trying to find more of these $20, $100 donors, and engage with them from a university standpoint, where we might be able to convert them into, if it’s possible, to that $500, $1000 donor, or even into an estate planning gift. So we like to use this from our standpoint of just breaking…let’s break the surface and see what we can do with these donors, but for the student organization, we just want to teach them hopefully to be more professional in what they do.


Hillary: And not get off on something completely different but I think Jeremy touched on that too, we are amazed every year when we look at the donors because obviously we sit on the back end and wait for donations to come in as the day’s, you know, rolling through because it’s so exciting but we’re amazed at the people we’ve never heard of that are donating and contributing to these organizations and it’s just another touchpoint for us from a university side to find out a little more, are they a parent of a student that’s here, are they an alum that maybe we lost touch with, are they somebody who’s contributed in the past? So for us, that just leads to additional conversations and better stewardship all around for the entire university, regardless of the fact that they’re giving maybe to the bass fishing club or to the green club or something like that. So overall it’s just been phenomenal for us from a fundraising standpoint all across campus.


Nickie: You know, the giving day’s getting a little more footing and just more recognizable and you know, there’s student turnover obviously, they’re only there for a short amount of time and if they can pass that onto their peers and keep the momentum going year after year I think that’s really great. In terms of like, student participation, I’m sure you have to set some high expectations, maybe some rules, or maybe even do you have any incentives or anything like that you’ve put in place to really help the students thrive?


Jeremy: Let’s not all answer at once. [Laughing] Well, just to touch on a little bit, and Katherine and Hillary can follow up with this where I’ll leave a hole or two. We do, yeah, we try to incentivize the students. The hard thing is getting them to participate. Once we have them as a participant I think we’re able to engage them more. It’s always, you know, it is a challenge. That is one of our biggest challenges is that we do have turnover. So you could have a student who’s president of an organization and they understand the day of giving and they have their organization just doing phenomenal things, and then they graduate. And then the person who took their place is just not the same dynamic, type person. And you know, they’ll go from being really successful to not even participating. And we’re wondering why, and it’s just that the leadership quality of that student is not something that falls into the giving.

So that is one of our challenges, we continually will push, we’ll continually remind students to be a part of this. It is a little easier from a department standpoint like our accounting department or so forth, because the staff tends, or the faculty in that case, tends to stay. So we don’t have to re-incentivize as much as possible. So we do a lot of reminder emails, a lot of you know, encouragement from the academic advisors for organizations to get those organizations to participate. And then we just try to do our training. Now, once they sign up, we try to do a lot of different things for them with different games, challenges, you know, who gets the most gifts during a certain timeframe. We did our last day of giving…had a great, I think one of the best day of events that we’ve ever had, and I’ll let Katherine take over on that one because it was all her idea from watching great television.


Katherine: So everyone loves trash TV right? And one night I just couldn’t sleep so I was flipping through channels and I found this like peel and win game show. And basically, they would walk up to this board and they would peel something, like the McDonalds cups, when you would peel off something and you would win a prize. And I thought, how can we incorporate this into Give N Day, and I brought the idea to Jeremy and Hillary, and once I was able to find a true picture of what I was trying to describe, they were on board. Hillary and I went to Lowe’s, we created this massive board, um, we ended up having almost 75% of the organizations show up for this day of giving and we called it “peel and lucky.” So the student organization would drop their name into a hat we would give the University President to pull, and they would walk on over and they would peel to win. And sometimes that was a $500 prize, sometimes that was $250, but just the overall excitement of everyone in the room, and it really gave an opportunity for multiple organizations to really participate, um, and get excited. So it was a really fun day this year. We’ll have to top it this year, I don’t know what I’ll browse through on TV, but I’ll have to, uh, find a way to top it next year.


Karin: I love that!


Jeremy: I think we’re gonna keep the same thing and just expand on it. It was really great, I think we did, what, 16 prizes? And we go out and we find sponsors to help pay for these type of events. So I think the sponsors like seeing it because it’s an immediate impact that a contribution they made will do. When I talk sponsors, we do things to…we make t-shirts to give out to the students, we do a lot of these things to help with our social media. So we want the students to retweet, repost, all these different things. Next year with peel and lucky we’ll probably do it Facebook live, just to help out. We did it on Facebook live last year under quarantine, we did a little different event, and it had great results for us. So we’ve done different things in the past, like pie the president, that was the second year. So organizations who had raised the most money by a certain time, the organization…well the one that had the most gifts, and the organization that raised the most, got to throw the first pie at our University President. And he was game, he liked doing it, but I think he much preferred staying clean with this one.

So…but we’ve got one of our organizations, actually our library. Our library’s a participant in this and who thinks…well, who’s gonna give to the library? What’s great is that they have a great team there. And it’s kind of like, why this is a success. We have a great team, you know, between, you want to say, give advice to other campuses, how to make this happen, have a great team. We’re lucky, the three of us, we really talk about this year-round for the most part. And we pull in a few other people to help out. But to go back, our library, they loved this. Like, Give N Day, for them, is a blast. One of the librarians is from Ohio, so we get gifts from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, just his relatives. He’s already next year about writing a song and doing a concert for the peel and lucky.


Karin: Oh my goodness!


Jeremy: Yeah, so, because they thought it was a great event, and I think they won a couple hundred dollars because we pulled their name, but it’s…you know it’s little things like that that’s making it fun and it’s gonna get more campus organizations to be a part of it. Because that was interesting, the organizations that walked up and said, hey well I’m part of such and such a group, and I said, well I’m sorry, you didn’t participate. And the look on their face was like taking a puppy away from a 10 year old. Um…but, you know, they said, well how do we participate? And I said well you have to be a part…register with our, you know, with Give N Day, and one of them…she got so mad that the president didn’t do it. So I said, you just need to step up and be a part of it next year. And so, I think that’s gonna help us expand, you know, we did this in the student union, and just to top off what Katherine added too, we had a lot of our organizations show up and right when we did this we just had torrential downpours on campus, it was hard to walk across campus. But they were still there, they all showed up for it. Because they knew they had to be there to have a chance to win.


Hillary: I think that’s one of the things that’s exciting, you know, we have 100% of our organizations that received funds. Does that mean that every organization raised thousands of dollars and met their goal? No, but we give opportunities that if you put a little bit of effort into participating in the events that we host, we have challenges and prizes for certain times, if you’re strategic and get people to go and donate at those times, if you mention this to anyone, the minimum gift is $10 which is great, because we have participation from students across campus, faculty and staff, alumni, parents, community members, donors, I mean, it’s just incredible the people that come together for Give N Day.

So, really having events like this is so important to us and I know we didn’t touch on the first part of the question that Nickie had about the expectations but we really don’t have a ton of rules for that. We want to make sure they set a goal obviously, we look through each individual page before it goes up to make sure that what they’re raising funds for is appropriate and something that our donors are gonna be excited about. You know, we love working one on one with those organizations to brainstorm and come up with things that will really benefit them. And then the only other caveat to that is that the funds have to stay on campus. And the reason we put that in there is because we do have Greek organizations on campus, we don’t want them fundraising for their philanthropies or things, they have their own fundraising events for that. So, that’s really the only rules, other than that, I mean, we give you all the tools to participate and we help you along with every step of the way, so.


Karin: That’s really incredible, I can’t wait to hear the song. I love the visibility, doing it on campus and having people come up from other organizations and getting them involved the next year is awesome. Being on Facebook Live and just trying to be, just having students retweet and share on social media is probably a great idea. Do you have prizes and incentives around social media sharing by chance or is that something you’ve been thinking about?


Hillary: In years past what we’ve done is like a t-shirt giveaway table and the way that you get the t-shirt is if you show that you’ve posted something with the Give N Day hashtag, um, we’ve talked about, you know, for the 20th retweet or things of that nature…we haven’t implemented a whole lot of that yet but that’s definitely coming down the pipeline. Certainly social media is huge for us and one piece of advice for anyone who’s running their Give N Day, or Giving Day, ours is Give N Day but…anyone who’s running their social media, we have our own social media accounts that are continuing to grow year after year specific to our Day of Giving, but we also utilize those other platforms that have people that are interested in supporting Nicholls, like our regular Nicholls State University social media accounts, our alumni page is huge, our athletics is huge, our foundation page has some people who follow that as well. So utilizing all of those channels to push out your message I think is really helpful and certainly it’s a great idea to give some prizes and incentives around that as well.


Jeremy: Yeah, we’ve been excited a couple of times on Twitter we’ve had our hashtag of Give N Day has been trending in the state of Louisiana at certain points of the day so…yeah, we could probably do some more with social media giveaways. The hard part for us is, you know, the development team at Nicholls if you probably looked at our full-on development team and compared us to colleges you would be surprised with how small we are. We are honestly smaller than most big high schools. It’s just…development at Nicholls when you go back 20 and 30 years, the way things…it wasn’t one of the bigger…the emphasis could have been a lot better. We were very fortunate where we are at Nicholls that we’ve had some great donors just from where we are, and doing a lot of the traditional fundraising has not been part of the history of the campus.

So we’re now transitioning into more of that, my point being I guess, when you go back to some of the traditional things like if we’re judging social media, it’s hard for us to take the time to have like a full, great, you know, if you’re judging social media posts, you should have a committee together. That would be hard for us to do, just in the, you know, the timing of a day. So there are things that we look at, we try to think of, alright, what are the biggest schools out there doing? Okay, now how can we do what that committee does, with one person, as part of their day? And, you know, so we’re so excited with what we do, we know we can do more, we know this can grow, and as we keep progressing we’re gonna expand on what we can and can’t do for our organizations and the chapters.


Hillary: And I think too, to mention what Jeremy said, you know, the buy-in from university administration or deans or department heads has grown, obviously, as they’ve seen the success of what it is that we do with Give N Day. So, you know, starting out small was something that we had to do and now we find that there’s additional resources that become available or more buy-in from people to really grow our Day of Giving. So, even if you have a small team, we’re a team of three people and our departments really don’t have many more people than that, uh, you know, we’re all in different sectors of the university, but if you can find a core group of people on campus that have some buy-in to what you’re trying to do and support the mission, then you’ll be successful for sure.


Karin: Yeah, for sure, sounds like you have already been implementing and growing and finding new ways to make this Giving Day stronger and stronger so I think that’s incredible. Do you have any new tools or strategies that you have in mind now for maybe implementing for next year’s Give N Day that you…since the year round thought that you’re putting into it, have you thought of anything new? Other than the song that’s gonna come about.


Katherine: So we talked about maybe incorporating like a Student Chair, a Faculty/Department Chair, to our core committee. That way they’re able to push this among their constituents, um…you know, they have someone on their side, they’re able to really push it and get it down in the trenches. We’re also talking about utilizing the Office of Development to engage with each college, so the way our development office works, each of us are assigned to a different college, so really utilizing the data from the last 4 years, um…to be able to maybe establish some fundraising champions, you know, within those colleges and really helping them from the ground level.


Jeremy: We know we can take this event to be a half a million-dollar event, we understand that. Um…but that’s not our ultimate goal, I guess you could say. It’s great if it does happen. What we want to do is be able to engage our organizations and departments…on, you know, what they can accomplish, and help get them along. You know, we don’t wanna be where we’re, you know, saving…I say this, in a bad way…you know, someone makes a gift, we typically do our day in March, if someone makes a gift in December, we’re not gonna hold it and say, hey, you gave it in March on our Day of Giving. Now, can we tie some things in if a person comes to us in December and says, I want to be a sponsor for your Day of Giving in March, we will do that kind of stuff, just to hold things. We want this to be a true Day of Giving where we’re not trying to pull every single gift that comes to university into one thing. We want this to be like Katherine said, to be engaging with our organizations, you know, we know our…like Hillary said this, our bass fishing club. They’re not gonna go out and raise $85,000 in one day, that’s not…unless they want a boat and somebody buys it for them. But their goal is to raise probably $5,000 or $6,000 a year, it helps cover their travel expenses for the tournaments they’re gonna go to, that’s really what it’s gonna be about.

Now, as we’re progressing, we’re seeing some departments that are having some success with what they’re doing and you know, say, our accounting department. Come on, what’s one of the least exciting things to give, to do on campus, is accounting, for goodness sakes. You know, I say this as a former accounting major at one point, but what’s exciting about giving to accounting? But the staff in our accounting department, they have bought into this, and they’re fired up about it. They’re creating scholarships, they’re creating endowments, they want to use the endowment funds to help keep up with technology for what they can provide for the students in terms of labs and so forth. And it’s things I’ve never really thought about, what they’re looking at doing. So they’re not seeing that this can be a $25,000 to a $50,000 a year event for them. So, if that department sees it, then some of our departments in biology, and so, they’re gonna start seeing it, where they can have those kind of equipment purchases. So we know we’re gonna get bigger, ah…is this gonna be, I could say, a $10 million event? Probably not, and you know, we’re okay with that, because we know the impact that it’s making for our campus, especially our student organizations and down on the department level, we know it’s really impactful to them.


Nickie: I’ve actually been thinking of how to ask how you will or have engaged your units and departments, you know, being such a small team it is tough to really go all out and work with each unit individually and so yeah, I definitely see how that is challenging and next year I’d like to see how that grows. Especially like you said, using the students to be that go-between between your office and you know, the unit or, like you said, having a Student Chair I think would be really, really beneficial.


Jeremy: And the one thing that we’re seeing with this by keeping it the way we do, is I think it allows for us to have our students get the message out to a lot of people or our departments as well. But it’s starting to engage other donors, or engage with talks after the day. You know, what we like about it is, I’ll give you a good example that happened with this past one. We had a gentleman whose daughter will be coming to Nicholls in the fall, and he made a nice gift to something that she’s gonna be a part of. And so, the general, you know, you get the basic thank you email that goes out when a gift happens. And he responds to it, and you know, who’s responding to these emails? And it was, hey, thanks for putting this on. And it was a really nice gift! So it comes to me, well I email back and just say, hey, you’re welcome, if there’s ever anything you want to talk about with Nicholls or what his daughter’s gonna be participating in and he immediately responds and says yes, I want to do some renovations on campus for this. And so…you know, we started engaging, talking, and now this is probably gonna be a seven-figure gift to the university with some of the projects he wants to work on. 

And now, would he have still done this type of stuff, he might have. But this was what opened the door, and has gotten the ball rolling, and we’ve been engaging with this guy now for a few months and his daughter technically hasn’t even stepped foot on campus yet. So, we’re excited about the doors that this opens and the opportunities it creates, and we’ve had other stories where an organization went to raise funds, their goal might have been $3,000, they raised around $2,000. The donor will contact them, you know, months later and say, how did you end up? You know like, oh, we’re a thousand dollars short. Okay, don’t worry about it, I’ll send a check in the mail next week. You know, and that happens six months later. So we’re excited about the opportunities it creates additionally for some of these organizations.


Nickie: That’s such a great story and such a great example of how the Giving Day can really just pave the way for other things to happen, especially things like renovations and bigger gifts and stuff like that. I guess, what advice might you offer other universities or colleges who might be looking for ways to involve their students a little bit more? It seems like more of an up and coming thing now, universities are realizing the benefit of, you know, engaging students in the Giving Day planning process, but if you had any advice what would you offer to other universities?


Hillary: So, I think we’ve talked about it a little bit but really just engaging your student leadership and your university administration as much as possible, I think that’s really the key to success, as long as you have the message across campus of what you’re trying to do, um, you know, you’re gonna get people that are excited about it and are gonna continue to pour into the resources that you have. So, you know, find the faculty and staff that are really excited about it and help them succeed as much as possible, you know, whenever they show a little bit of interest or they come asking questions about, hey, we have this person who might be interesting in donating, we think their gift’s gonna be about $500. Cool, have you talked to them about a matching gift? You know, that would be a really great challenge for your group to do. We can put their name up and we can put in whatever specifics, if you get 10 donors, then it unlocks their gift. We know that their gift is gonna come through regardless, but it just kind of incentivizes that rolling thing to get other people engaged and excited too, so that’s really the biggest advice that I have.


Jeremy: And I would add, when you engage with them, be very realistic with them. You know, if you go to an organization, ask them what they would like to do, I’ll give you an example, we have on campus the French Club. You know, Louisiana, we have Cajun French, you can see with some of the names we have on here, last names, um…so French is still a big part of South Louisiana. One of the things that the French Club wanted to do and COVID kind of knocked this out was to go to a university, I think it’s in Toronto…or, not in Toronto, but in Canada, where they can be immersed in French for six weeks over the summer. So…or is it Montreal? So…anyway, they wouldn’t be able to go out and raise the full tuition or the full amount for all the students to go to it, but if you put it in perspective to drop it down to okay, realistically, let’s look at what you can do. Now, knowing the ultimate goal would be to raise that tremendous amount, if you don’t have a history of going, you’re not gonna go out in the first step, chances are, and raise, you know, $100,000. Now, some of these organizations you can go out realistically and say, let’s try to raise $5,000, let’s try to raise…or $10,000 in some ways. So, teach those students how to be realistic and if you can, since you’re gonna be working with GiveGab, get some examples of other universities and what they’ve done, um, you know, we’d be happy to be an example of another university, to show what some of our organizations have raised. That they’ve, you know, gotten these thousand to ten thousand dollar amounts. Be very realistic with them, that this amount can make a big difference for them and don’t get too pie in the sky, but you want them to shoot as high as they can. So, that would be my one thing is to be realistic, but to have examples where this has been successful in other places and then you can show them.


Katherine: I would also say, like anything that you start, it’s really hard in the beginning and you will have the naysayers, um, and you may not have university buy-in. We were lucky that we were able to have university buy-in, but just push through. The first year was very hard, we didn’t know what we were doing, but you know, through the partnership with GiveGab and the support we got from them, this then became our Super Bowl. We stay up the 24 hours, and GiveGab is right along with us, cheering us on, providing support, so just push through in the beginning, and in the end it all pans out and it really is the best day of the year.


Karin: That’s amazing to hear, and I love all of the advice that you have to provide, I’m sure other universities will be very appreciative to take that on and try that out. And I like the, um, realistic, Jeremy, that you’re talking about, the realistic talk with organizations, I appreciate because when I talk to organizations sometimes and talk about their goals, I usually say something like, you know, you want to be realistic, be ambitious, but you know, be realistic. Keep that as your baseline, so, it resonated with something that I usually talk about.


Jeremy: I’ll go back, the first year we did this, um, I know Laryssa, one of your team members was there, and I can’t think of who else, but, you know, one of the questions, what is your goal? And I said, you want the goal that we’re gonna tell the public or the one that we’re gonna have in house? And we really did have two goals, and I said, you know, we’re gonna put out to the public, hey, let’s raise $50,000. Now, in house, you know, I’m being greedy, I’m like, if we could do $100,000, that would be great, knowing that we probably wouldn’t do it in the first year because Katherine said, the buy-in, you know, I like to say, it’s gonna take 5 years before we really get buy-in. And man, it’s really happening. Last year, we did just under $185,000, had a great increase, and next year’s year 5. So I think with the results, and the consistency, we’re gonna have more buy-in. But yeah, we were really very realistic in our first-year goal.  Some people…you know, I saw this university and they raised $45 million and I’m like,  yeah, okay, that’s not gonna happen and it’ll never happen here, it’s just who we are and that’s who our…it’s where we are, it’s not gonna happen, so let’s be very realistic with who we are, where we are, what we can do, how it’s gonna impact…it’s not that difficult, just look at who you are and be happy with it.


Karin: I like that, that’s like a great rule to go by just in life I think. [Laughing] So…that’s a pretty…transcendent there. So you all touched on a little about working with GiveGab, you mentioned Laryssa and of course, Nickie as your project manager nowadays. How has working with GiveGab in general helped you all to achieve success with your Give N Day?


Katherine: Kind of like what I said, they are our biggest cheerleaders. We stay up the whole time, they’re up the whole time, we’re messaging back and forth, so they kind of keep us going, along with caffeine, um, but in the first few years we didn’t know what to ask for, as far as assistance from GiveGab. We were like, whatever y’all provide to anybody else, like, we didn’t know, but now that we know the great job that you guys can do, and what you can provide, y’all do a great job of listening to ideas and incorporating it into the system, um, and we’ve done a, you know, a great job over the years of building the relationship with GiveGab. We even send them king cake, if our Give N Day falls around Mardi Gras, so we built that great relationship and we look forward to continuing that in years to come.


Hillary: Yeah and I would definitely echo too that we certainly appreciate, I love the correspondence that we have year-round about just, hey, look at what they’re doing, look at this Giving Day, this might be something cool for Nicholls to look into. I’m sure that Nickie and Molly and Laryssa and the whole team probably get overwhelmed with the amount of ideas that I come back with. I always start with no notes whenever we go into our initial planning meeting and then I sit down and I have probably a list of ten things and they’re like, we’re gonna have to go back and talk to the tech team and see what we can do. But um,  it really is that year round planing and just looking at what others are doing and trying to implement really fun things for Nicholls and seeing what makes sense, what’s gonna work for us, and then too, the same goes the other way around whenever we have ideas we’re passing that on to your team as well.


Jeremy: Yeah, I’d like to say, it’s fun that I think sometimes we get to hear that, oh, let me check with the tech team. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes it’s a bad thing, but you know, what we, I guess some of the things we try to do, we do survey our donors and we do a survey of our participating organizations. So we hear some of the requests, some of the things that we get, and what’s great about working with you guys is that, we’ll toss it out and say look, we got this idea from one of our donors, is it something we can look at? And sometimes I’m saying it just to see, and the next thing I know, alright, come back two weeks later and we’ve got this laid out and I’m like…whoa, that was just as a conversation piece. So it’s great when we can throw some ideas out that we think, um…you know, will benefit us.

I like to think of it though, if we do something that’ll benefit us, and it’s a decent idea, then it’s something you guys can also, you know, promote to other universities to make it easier for them. Um…you know, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. There’s really, when it comes to university fundraising, for the most part, you know, you’re not competing for donors, you know, with other universities. I know you have some that are close, but I’m an alum of this university, I’m an alum of Nicholls State University. As of right now, I’m not giving any money to another university, just because I’m gonna support…so, if something works for us, why not let another university use the same kind of tool, that makes it easier for donors, it just makes it easier for fundraisers, and a standpoint of they’re trusting…you know, the worst thing we can have as a fundraiser is that somebody does something wrong somewhere else and it causes your long time donor to lose trust in you, based on what happened somewhere else. So if we can do things that make it easier for everyone, and we have an idea and it works, then let’s use it.


Karin: I love it, that’s great! Well, I’m glad that um…I’m glad to hear about your success and I’m glad that the GiveGab team is here and has done a good job of supporting you all. I get to work with Nickie too on some projects and I can also say it’s a treat to work with her. So thank you, Jeremy, Hillary, and Katherine, for taking the time with us today to talk about Give N Day, and give us some inspiration and insights on how to really engage students, student participation, organizations, and make those connections with donors, and really form those relationships. I think it was really helpful and I hope everyone listening got some tips out of this and has some inspiration for their Giving Days.

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