An unprecedented year deserves unprecedented giving, so it was only fitting that the University of Lynchburg should surpass all previous records on GiveDay 2020. Postponed from April due to COVID-19, the event was finally held on Oct. 15.
GiveDay Live events were in full swing at 12:35 p.m. when the day’s goal — 1,117 donors for 117 years of Lynchburg history — was already met, and President Dr. Alison Morrison-Shetlar, who had been climbing the University’s high-ropes course one element at a time, jumped on the zip line to celebrate.
“We did it!” she shouted as she zoomed through the trees and people’s social media feeds. “You did it!”
Erika Mork, director of institutional giving and co-host of several GiveDay Live segments, which stretched throughout the day, says the president’s enthusiasm helped push this year’s results over the finish line.
“President Morrison-Shetlar’s passion for the institution and for engaging our entire Lynchburg family really shines through,” Mork said. “Students, parents, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends — all facets of our campus community were well represented on GiveDay. We’re so grateful to everyone who stepped up to make the day a success.”
The board of trustees issued a joint $20,000 challenge, releasing $5,000 for every 100 donors throughout the afternoon.
The president and several trustees also gave a symbolic amount of $1,903 in honor of the year Lynchburg was founded, Mork added, and donors “kept the giving going all evening” to surpass the president’s new, aspirational goal of 1,903 donors.
Morrison-Shetlar matched students’ donations up to $1,000, and a pizza party with the president enticed them to pitch in, resulting in more than 300 student gifts. Nearly 1,000 gifts came from alumni and more than 200 donations were made by faculty and staff.
By the time all gifts were counted, the University had raised over $315,000 from more than 1,950 individual donors. About 500 were first-time donors. There were more than 2,500 individual gifts.
“I could not be more proud and grateful to everyone who stepped forward and supported our students’ success,” Morrison-Shetlar said. “I’m excited about the increased number of people that are engaging with the University, many for the first time. It was encouraging to see how many of our students started their own philanthropic journey by giving to the University on GiveDay. From my heart to all of yours — thank you!”
The Lynchburg Fund, which supports all aspects of the student experience, received 130% more money this year than in 2019.
“Unrestricted philanthropic support for The Lynchburg Fund is always a priority for our institution,” Vice President for Advancement Dr. Mike Bonnette said. “This fund is especially important during challenging times because it gives us the flexibility to do what’s needed, when it’s needed.”
Two additional priorities the Office of Advancement focused on in 2020 were the Five for the Hive Athletics Upgrades and the Hobbs-Sigler Science Hall Renovations. Thanks to a challenge grant from the Mary Morton Parsons Foundation, gifts were matched dollar-for-dollar up to $75,000 per initiative. The Five for the Hive challenge is now met and there is less than $15,000 left to be raised for the Hobbs-Sigler challenge.
As on Give Days past, it took many Hornets coming together — from advancement to athletics, from communications staff to communications faculty. Athletics’ Director of Digital Media Joe Hutzler directed the livestream, while Associate Professor of Communication Studies Dr. Jimmy Roux hosted multiple segments. Faculty and coaches recorded video appeals to promote their programs and challenge students, alumni, and fellow employees to chip in.
Dr. David Richards, who chairs the political science and international relations department, decided to do a challenge for the study abroad office, an important partner in his students’ global education, and received great support for the program through GiveDay.
“Faculty have a special relationship with current students and alumni,” Richards said. “I think it is great when faculty can connect with them on special occasions like GiveDay or Homecoming.”
During the final GiveDay Live segment at 4 p.m., Morrison-Shetlar and her husband, “First Gentleman” Dr. Bob Shetlar, continued a long-running Lynchburg tradition: They rang the Kenneth and Sheila Garren Victory Bell.