Select Page

Eastern Kentucky University’s first-ever giving day was a record-setting success, bringing in far more donations in 24 hours than in any other single day in the University’s history.

During the April 24 EKU Giving Day event, the University’s Office of Development and Alumni Relations received nearly 750 donations from every U.S. state and Puerto Rico, totaling more than $125,000. The number of donations easily exceeded the initial goal of 424 donors, and gifts were still coming in on April 26.

“When we envisioned this event, we didn’t set a monetary goal because we wanted to make it clear that every donation of any amount is impactful,” said Dan McBride, associate vice president of development and alumni relations. “We chose to aim for a specific number of donors to see how engaged our alumni, students, employees and friends are. The answer is ‘very.’ We are absolutely humbled by the outpouring of love and support for EKU and our students from across the nation and the world.”

Each EKU Giving Day milestone was selected to be significant and memorable in some way. For example, the initial goal of 424 donations was chosen because the event took place on 4/24. A stretch goal of 521 donations represented the address of the University, 521 Lancaster Avenue.

Both of those goals were shattered before the end of the workday, prompting the Office of Development and Alumni Relations and EKU President Dr. Michael T. Benson to create a “super-stretch goal.” They chose 730 to represent a recent EKU point of pride — this academic year, the University reached a 73-percent freshman retention rate, which marks a 10-percent increase in the last decade.

“EKU’s first annual day of giving reiterated what we already knew — that the generosity of Colonel Nation knows no boundaries,” said Dr. Benson. “No matter the amount you give and no matter what area you support — scholarships, academics, athletics, programs, facilities — you make a real, immediate difference in the lives of EKU students and help the University reach its academic goals.”

EKU Giving Day included a number of milestones that triggered matching donations from the EKU Alumni Board, the EKU Foundation Board and anonymous donors. For example:

  • At 41 donors, the Alumni Board gave an additional $500. The milestone represents the 41 percent of EKU students who are the first in their families to pursue a college degree.

  • At 130 donors, the Alumni Board gave an additional $1,500. That milestone represents the 130,000 living EKU Alumni.

  • At 220 donors, an anonymous benefactor gave an additional $2,000. The 220 figure represents the 22 counties in EKU’s service region.

  • At 521 donors, the Foundation Board pledged an additional $5,000.

To promote engagement, the Office of Development and Alumni Engagement also created a series of competitions and sub-challenges. For example, the office sought at least one donor from every U.S. state and Puerto Rico. They kept supporters up to date on social media with a “Make the Map Maroon” challenge. Once a donation was received, the state where it originated was highlighted in maroon on an interactive map.

The Make the Map Maroon challenge was completed with minutes to spare. Puerto Rico was the last holdout, with a single donation arriving from the U.S. territory in the last hour of the campaign.

Donors could also select which college, campus group, Greek organization, athletic team or University fund their donation represented or supported, with leaderboards updated in real time. The College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences; Student Alumni Ambassadors; Phi Lamda Chi Latina Sorority; EKU Men’s Baseball; and the Eastern Fund took first place in their respective categories.

Several prominent alumni and friends of the University made notable contributions throughout the day. Dr. John D. Rowlett donated $25,000 in memory of his mother, Mary Anne Mason Rowlett. Dr. Deborah Alexander, ‘77,  gave nearly $20,000 in honor of her study abroad experience as an EKU student. EKU Regent Laura Babbage, ‘81, and husband Bob, ‘73, donated more than $7,500 to the nursing program.

The unprecedented success of EKU Giving Day was a surprise, but the organizers are confident that it will become even more successful during future annual events.

“I truly believe that EKU creates the best alumni in the world. Wherever life takes them, graduates stay connected to their Colonel roots,” McBride said. “I am grateful for their generosity and I look forward to seeing it in action again at future EKU Giving Day events.”