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It’s Giving Day! Here’s how fundraising challenges have rocketed students to success

Ethan Derikito, left, and Arun Chundru, who both study mechanical engineering, work on a rocket engine in the Forsyth building capstone lab for AerospaceNU. Photo by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University

Building rockets, drones and other aerospace engineering projects can get expensive. And mishaps–which incur additional costs–go with the territory. So when AerospaceNU won extra funds in a Giving Day challenge in 2019, it was a boon for the student club of more than 100 active members. 

“Suddenly having extra dollars that we haven’t budgeted for makes a really big difference with what we can do,” says Cameron Bracco, a third-year computer science student, and president of the club, which builds and launches rockets, among other aerospace projects. With help from those Giving Day funds, a team of about 50 students is designing and building a liquid rocket engine.

The students have built rockets, rocket engines, propulsion systems, custom avionics, and much more. They have multiple projects going on at once, all proposed by students. There’s also an Introduction to Rocketry program, which requires no previous experience and culminates in a launch of the rockets. 

After a hiatus for the pandemic last year, Giving Day challenges are back—and today is the day. Throughout the 24-hour fundraising blitz, Northeastern is hosting special challenges to encourage alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students and anyone else in the Northeastern community to support student organizations, programs, and other causes that they feel passionate about. The challenges provide opportunities for causes and organizations on campus to win extra funds. In most cases, the challenges are tied to the number of donors to a specific group or fund, not the worth of the donations themselves. 

Left, Becky Johnston, who studies mechanical engineering, and Cameron Bracco, who studies computer science, work on a rocket engine in the Forsyth building capstone lab for AerospaceNU. Right, Dulani Kankanamge, president of the women’s rugby team, left, and Kat Beske, vice president of the team, practice on Carter Field. Photos by Ruby Wallau/Northeastern University

Some challenges are dedicated to specific organizations or causes on campus, such as the University Health and Counseling Services Challenge, the Women Who Empower challenge, the LGBTQA Center challenge, or the Global Experience Fund challenge. Other challenges reward groups (such as club sports teams, or student organizations like AerospaceNU) that generate the highest number of donations. Supporters can also unlock extra cash to direct to the fund of their choice in social media challenges–no donation necessary–such as the Hidden Husky challenge, a sort of hide-and-seek game in which students look for hidden stuffed huskies around campus and share a photo.

For the Women’s Rugby Club, the Hidden Husky challenge in the past has provided a fun way for the athletes to come together in support of their team, says Katrina Beske, Vice President of the team and a fifth year student studying computer science and digital art.

“Running around Northeastern trying to find those huskies was a great bonding experience for people on the team,” she says.

The Women’s Rugby team also received extra funds through the 2019 challenges. That extra money was essential, Beske says, as it allowed the team to compete in the College 7s National Championships for the first time that May in Tucson, Arizona. The team placed fifth at the tournament. 

“It meant a lot for our team to be able to get our name out there and show that we have what it takes to compete at that kind of a level, because we had never done that up to that point,” Beske says. “It was really lucky for us to have been able to win that challenge and for that to enable us to get there.”

Giving Day challenges are also a way for alumni to rally around the organizations on campus that defined their Northeastern experience, says Vishal Makhijani, who graduated in 2019. 

“It makes it a lot more meaningful, rather than just a general donation to the university,” he says. Furthermore, “having graduated fairly recently, to donate to Northeastern generally is a bit tougher for folks.” As a leader of the LGBTQ+ Alumni Network, Makhijani says “it’s compelling me to give all the more knowing that much additional money can be unlocked for the center.”

The LGBTQA Center Challenge is new this year, but that doesn’t mean there hasn’t been an incentive for supporters to donate on Giving Day before. Lee West, director of the LGBTQA Resource Center, previously promised to dye his hair blue if donations reached a certain threshold. It worked. 

“But now the incentive is even better,” he says. “It’s not just my blue hair, it’s $10,000 if we get 50 donations.”

Donations to the LGBTQA Resource Center will go toward a wide variety of programs that support students, West says. The center offers students resources for navigating professional life, leadership programming for LGBT-focused student organizations, and guidance as students navigate paperwork and processes to legally change their name or gender, among other programs. The center also does training, development and consultation across the university for departments, organizations, colleges and other groups that want to be more inclusive.

“Having additional financial support like this means that we get to say yes to more opportunities for our students,” West says. 

Giving Day can also bring visibility to the many possible opportunities for students at Northeastern, says Diane Nishigaya MacGillivray, senior vice president for university advancement at Northeastern. The challenges “showcase the myriad, diverse, interesting, impactful funds that exist to enrich and enhance the student experience here at Northeastern,” she says. MacGillivray herself has decided to “put my money where my passion is” by pledging to match all gifts to Women Who Empower up to $20,000. 

Donations to Women Who Empower will go toward the entire initiative, particularly providing support for up-and-coming innovators and entrepreneurs, MacGillivray says. “Often women entrepreneurs don’t have the same access to a support network, to capital, to just recognition and visibility around their ideas, their innovations, and their ventures. So that’s why I really want to jump-start that.”

Although some Giving Day challenges have a competitive element, there is a sense of camaraderie among the student organizations vying to be challenge winners, Beske says. 

“We’re all happy for any organization on campus who wins anything from Giving Day,” she says. “It’s great when we win, but I’m happy for anybody else who reaps the benefits of that. We’re all in the same boat as college kids trying to get the most out of our experience.”

To join the fray, check out some of the challenges below. A full list can be found online here.

ALL-DAY CHALLENGES

Club sports challenge

The top three club sports teams with the most donations will receive challenge dollars. The team in first place will receive a donation of $3,000; the team in second place will receive $1,000; and the team in third place will receive $1,000.

Hidden Husky challenge

Stuffed huskies are hidden around Northeastern’s Boston campus. If students find one and post a picture of themselves with the husky using the hashtag #NUGivingDay, they have the chance to earn $600 for a Northeastern cause of choice. Ten huskies have been hidden, and five posts will be selected to allocate $600 each in funds at 3 p.m. EDT.

Challenge of the colleges

The top three schools or colleges with the highest number of donations will receive challenge awards to their dean’s funds. The school in first place will receive a donation of $30,000; the school in second place will receive $15,000; and the school in third place will receive $10,000.

Co-op challenge

For every gift of $25 or more made to the Parents, Alumni and Friends Co-op Support Fund, $100 in matching funds will be donated—up to $10,000.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion challenge

If Diversity, Equity and Inclusion receives 75 gifts of $25 or more, $10,000 will be donated to support the priorities of Northeastern’s newly appointed chief inclusion officer, Karl Reid.

Student challenge

The 100th student gift will unlock $5,000 to be directed to the fund of the donor’s choice.

Women Who Empower challenge

Diane Nishigaya MacGillivray, senior vice president for university advancement at Northeastern, will match all gifts to Women Who Empower up to $20,000. 

Senior challenge

Calling all seniors: Donors between 12 a.m. and 12 p.m. EDT on Giving Day will have the chance to direct a total of $5,000 to a fund of choice. Ten senior donors will be randomly chosen to allocate $500 each.

University Honors Program challenge

Alumnus Sean O’Donnell will match $100 for every gift the University Honors Program receives on Giving Day, up to $3,000.

LGBTQA Center challenge

If 50 gifts are made to the LGBTQA Center, Northeastern’s Senior Director of Stewardship David Hough will join with anonymous donors to donate $10,000 to the Center.

University Health and Counseling Services challenge

Northeastern’s Parents Leadership Council will join with an anonymous donor to donate $10,000 to UHCS if 50 donations are made to the UHCS fund.

Global Experience Fund challenge

If 75 gifts are made to the Global Experience Fund on Giving Day, an additional $5,000 will be donated to support the First-Time Travelers Grant.

TIMED CHALLENGES

6-10 a.m. EDT

Young Alumni challenge

The fund with the most Young Alumni gifts (which includes the classes of 2011-2020) will receive a donation of $5,000.

Favorite cause challenge

Post about the school, unit, or program that you believe deserves extra Giving Day funds and use the hashtag #NUGivingDay for a chance to donate $1,000 to that fund. Two winners will be randomly selected.

10-11 a.m. EDT

East Coast NU power hour 

The fund that receives the most money during this hour will unlock $5,000 worth of challenge dollars.

10 a.m.-12 p.m. EDT

Throwback Thursday challenge

Post a picture of your favorite Northeastern memory with the hashtag #NUGivingDay for a chance to win $1,000 for a fund of your choice. Two winners will be selected. 

12-2 p.m. EDT

Proud to be a Husky challenge

Post “I’m proud to be a Husky because …” with the hashtag #NUGivingDay to unlock $1,000 for a fund of your choice. Two winners will be selected. 

East Coast college timed kicker challenge

An anonymous donor will step forward to challenge the East Coast Northeastern community to make a gift during their lunch break. The college that raises the most money between 12-2 p.m. EDT will win an extra $5,000.

3-5 p.m. EDT

West Coast college timed kicker challenge

An anonymous donor will step forward to challenge the West Coast Northeastern community to make a gift during their lunch break. The college that raises the most money between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. EDT will win an extra $5,000.

4-6 p.m. EDT

Student organization challenge

The student organization with the most gifts at this time will receive $4,000.

Family spirit challenge

Post a picture of your family, child, or pet in Northeastern gear with the hashtag #NUGivingDay for a chance to win $1,000 to a fund of your choice. Two winners will be selected. 

6-9 p.m. EDT

Most alumni challenge

The fund with the greatest number of alumni gifts will receive an extra $5,000.

9-10 p.m. EDT

West Coast power hour

The fund that receives the most money during this hour will unlock an extra $5,000 donation. 

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