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U.Va. moves "Giving ToHoosDay" to Founder's Day in April

Donation drive scaled back last year following release of Rolling Stone article

The University will not be participating in a Giving Tuesday fundraising campaign this year, but will push the fundraiser to April 12, 2016, or Founder’s Day, instead.

Giving Tuesday is a global day of giving following Black Friday and Cyber Monday and encourages people to support the causes and communities they care about through donations, volunteer work and education. It was started in 2012 and targets a social media audience.

Over the last two years, the University has used Giving Tuesday as a platform for its own annual day of giving, calling it “Giving ToHoosDay,” or #GivingToHoosDay on social media. This year, the fundraising push will take place in the spring, just before Founders Day at the University, instead of the upcoming Giving Tuesday date.

In 2013, Giving ToHoosDay started as a giving initiative targeted specifically at young alumni, and in 2014, the day became a University-wide initiative to reach a larger number of potential donors, said Ann Lawrence Grasty, director for University annual giving.

Last year, Giving ToHoosDay efforts were significantly scaled back following the release of the now-retracted Rolling Stone article detailing an alleged gang rape on Grounds.

“It would [have been] tone-deaf to move forward with Giving Tuesday in that environment considering that the giving day was primarily a digital effort,” Grasty said. “In the meantime, we continued to pay attention to what our colleagues in higher education were doing with their giving days.”

The University found that other schools with successful giving days held them on days of special significance to the specific school or independent of Giving Tuesday. Grasty cited Columbia University and Purdue University as successful examples of independent giving days.

Both Columbia and Perdue each raised nearly $13 million on their giving days.

In contrast, the University of Michigan organized their #GivingBlueDay in 2014 on Giving Tuesday and raised just over $3 million.

“[Michigan’s total was] not shabby at all, but when you look at what some of the people are doing on days outside of Giving Tuesday, it just makes more sense to [hold a giving day] around a day that’s more significant to the University,” Grasty said.

The #GivingTuesday website says the movement has over 30,000 partners in 68 countries and over 32 million Twitter impressions.

“Giving Tuesday is a wonderful idea, but everybody is doing it, and so you run the risk of…having our U.Va. alumni, parents and friends being deluged by not just opportunities to give to the University of Virginia, but also to every other charity that’s participating in Giving Tuesday,” Grasty said.

The University chose Apr. 12, 2016 as its next Giving ToHoosDay because it is the day before Founder’s Day — Thomas Jefferson’s birth date — and it will fit in with philanthropy appreciation efforts that week, Grasty said.

“Come [April 13] we can announce what the overall dollars raised and give that as a birthday gift to the University on Mr. Jefferson’s birthday,” Grasty said.

The University has not set any fundraising goals yet, but “we want everybody to feel like they can participate,” Grasty said.

Beverly Greenfield, director of public and media relations for 92nd Street Y, the organization that created GivingTuesday in 2012, said she understands the University’s decision to hold their giving day in April instead of December.

“I think there is something about it being a national conversation on…Giving Tuesday, about giving, that has a tremendous impact,” Greenfield said. “That said, there are a number of different organizations that have taken the ideas around #GivingTuesday and moved them to another day, which is why we call it a movement and not a giving day.”

Giving Tuesday has grown into a movement that is more than just a system of online giving, but is also about volunteer drives and “getting people to talk about giving,” Greenfield said. There is also a lot of offline giving, which Giving Tuesday organizers are unable to track, she said.

Many nonprofits can use #GivingTuesday to encourage the end-of-year contributions they often rely on, Greenfield said.

“If we wind up with more days where people are focused on giving throughout the course of the year because of Giving Tuesday, that seems like a huge success to me,” Greenfield said.