Tradition of charitable giving invaluable to Salve Regina students in challenging times
The longstanding tradition of generosity from Salve Regina’s benefactors – particularly its alumni supporters – has been especially meaningful for students and their families struggling during COVID-19 in a turbulent 2020.
Overall giving to the University was up during the last fiscal year, with $5.4 million pledged compared to $4.1 million during the previous year. This includes donations that specifically support financial aid and scholarship, also up in fiscal year 2020 with $2.9 million pledged compared to $1.7 million the previous year. Approaching the December holidays, the University continues to track very well for pledges and will soon announce a $150,000 foundation gift directed to help students during these difficult times.
“Working closely with financial aid to help our students is among the most important things we do in fundraising, especially in difficult times like this,” said Michael Semenza, vice president for university relations and advancement. “So many graduates who benefited from the generosity of others while they were at Salve as students carry on this tradition from generation to generation.”
Salve Regina’s average alumni giving rate is 15 percent, a level of participation well above its peers. In the 2021 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s survey of “Best Colleges,” Salve Regina ranked in a tie for 3rd out of 176 colleges and universities in the Regional Universities-North category for alumni giving rate, with only Fairfield University and St. Bonaventure achieving higher participation.
Giving to Salve Regina families during pandemic
“I give because it’s full circle for me,” said Bill Magnier ’94, a Salve Regina graduate who owns Splitfinger Strategies and who helped the University launch its ‘Give a Mask, Get a Mask’ fundraising campaign. “Salve Regina is a place that believed in me and kept me accountable. In turn, it is a place I really want to do right by. Now, 26 years later … I still ‘feel the care’ – from its deep-rooted and rich traditions, the amazing campus and, best of all, its people. I want to show the current and future generations the same support and encouragement that was shown to me. I hope they embrace the opportunities among them to teach them about who they really are.”
Working with alumni and donors at all levels, Salve Regina’s advancement team put in place several new initiatives to keep donors engaged with the university during challenging times. The Mercy Emergency Relief Fund, for example, brought in more than $300,000 from 1,000-plus donors, providing direct aid to students and families struggling to cover expenses brought about by lost incomes or reduced hours and wages due to COVID-19.
“Advancement really did an amazing job of fundraising, and it has made a huge difference for our students and their families,” said Anne McDermott, director of financial aid. “We were able to quickly and thoughtfully award emergency funding as it was being raised.”
Through fundraising, McDermott said the University helped more than 100 families who found themselves out of work either temporarily or permanently, and it helped with the unexpected travel costs for students who needed to get home from study abroad.
“Retention and student success are always on the top list of institutional priorities, so the thought of losing students because of coronavirus-related financial insecurity was on all of our minds,” McDermott said. “Thanks to many generous donors who continued to give during hard times, we have been able to make a huge difference in the lives of families most heavily impacted.”
Resourceful fundraising during pandemic
The pandemic has pushed fundraisers to be more creative and resourceful, which has been both challenging and rewarding, according to Victoria Duclos, senior director of advancement operations and programs. “With the cancelation of a number of in-person fundraising events, we are using more commerce fundraising strategies – giving our audience a chance to do good while getting something in return,” Duclos said, pointing to successful campaigns like “Give A Mask, Get A Mask.”
In spite of the pandemic, all of Salve Regina’s fundraising programs are ongoing – mail, digital and phone – including a scaled-down version of its student-run calling center.
“Our student philanthropy associates have adjusted to operating in very small groups – socially distanced and have converted to using laptops instead of paper,” Duclos said. “We’ve had to be super flexible in every way, from timing, to methods, to communications.”
Despite all the challenges, Duclos said she is optimistic about annual giving at Salve Regina maintaining its strong tradition. “We think that these smaller campaigns throughout our fund year will keep our fundraising message fresh and specific. We’re working hard and saying our prayers.”
A snapshot of fundraising initiatives
Seahawks Take Flight: Multi-sport crowdfunding campaign in collaboration with Salve Athletics that supports student-athletes whose sports seasons have been impacted by the pandemic.
Give A Mask, Get A Mask Campaign: Salve masks available for purchase that were provided at cost by alumni Bill Magnier and his wife, Mary, who own Splitfinger Strategies.
Salve Regina Luminaria: Hundreds of paper lanterns displayed during the Celebration of Light and Spirit on campus provided an opportunity to share an inscribed tribute in honor or memory of someone special.
44th Annual Governor’s Ball: Held virtually this year, the university’s largest fundraising event to support student scholarships, raised more than $500,000.
Mercy Emergency Relief Fund: Money from this fund, over $300,000 to date, provides direct aid to students and their families struggling to cover expenses brought about by COVID-19.
Scholars and Scholarship: An ongoing, longer-term campaign has raised in excess of $15 million to name 100 endowed scholarships to help students in need.