First “Giving Day” Raises $6.8 Million

The Giving Day website features video of faculty, deans, trustees, and students discussing their work at Columbia.

On October 24, thousands of Columbia alumni and friends went online to participate in the first twenty-four-hour, University-wide annual-fund drive.

Giving Day generated $6.8 million in new donations — a sum five times as large as the University’s previous record for annual-fund gifts in a twenty-four-hour period.

The event drew some 5,000 contributions from fifty states and thirty-nine countries. Forty percent of donors were giving to the University for the first time. The donations will support financial aid, research, and programs across the University.

The success of Giving Day, say University officials, is due in part to its spirit of friendly competition: alumni of sixteen schools jockeyed to win their school a portion of $400,000 in matching funds that the Board of Trustees kicked in. Columbia College raised the most money — nearly $1.3 million — to which the trustees added another $78,000; the School of Continuing Education achieved the highest alumni participation rate, earning $40,000 in matching funds.

Throughout the day, the Giving Day website streamed original content, including live video of the preeminent Columbia brain scientist Eric Kandel answering questions sent to him via social media, a roundtable discussion with several deans, and real-time fundraising results.

The event’s organizers say they found it gratifying that a large percentage of traffic to the site was referred through social media, such as Facebook posts or Twitter messages from Columbians.

“The success of Giving Day shows the remarkable impact our alumni can make when they come together to achieve a common goal,” says CloEve Demmer, the director of annual fund programs.