On April 26th, YU held its second annual Day of Giving, which successfully raised $4,538,747 from 3,004 donors.The campaign was such a success that it surpassed its goal of $3 million and even surpassed its bonus goal of $3.8 million. The 2018 theme was “YU Heroes,” with ads showing students in capes and superhero gear. Alysa Herman, the Director of Institutional Advancement, explained the meaning behind the theme was twofold; “[YU] students have these heroic qualities and [President Berman] has charged our students to use [their]…education to improve the world. So we wanted to celebrate our students who are heroes and also our faculty and students across all our schools…I think everyone can think of someone on campus or a graduate who is a hero.”
Like last year, all donations were matched by a select group of YU supporters. During the two hour bonus round, all donations were quadrupled. The donations will be spread across YU high schools, undergraduate schools, graduate schools, and other programs like student scholarships funds. Jennifer Cahn, Director of Annual Giving said, “[We’ve] experienced great success. What’s been really exciting is that we’ve gotten donations directed to all of our different schools and programs; from undergrad to RIETS to Cardozo and beyond. And what’s most encouraging is that many of our students have stepped up to the plate and have made their own gifts, whether to Senior Class Gift or to other student-based initiatives.”
Giving Day was promoted in the weeks preceding with the social media campaign #YUHero. Famous friends of the university, such Senator Chuck Schumer, Yankees hero Mariano Rivera, and Washington Heights neighbor Lin-Manuel Miranda made videos voicing their support. Miranda, the Pulitzer-prize winning playwright who narrated a fundraising video in 2016, said in his pitch, “Yeshiva are amazing neighbors here in Washington Heights, and they have programs that benefit not just the Washington Heights neighborhood, but all over New York, so I hope you find it in your heart to give to them.”
Over the course of the day, on both the Wilf and Beren Campuses, there were activities and opportunities for students to get involved. Last year there had been criticism that Wilf received a disproportionate amount of events in honor of Giving Day. This year, Herman promised, “We are cognizant of [that]. It’s been intentional to make it good and appropriate for our women…we specifically looked for female student input so we could avoid that.” Herman did just that on March 14th, when several student leaders had the chance to speak to President Berman and others in charge of organizing the Giving Day. Student leaders like Rebecca Kerzner, editor-in-chief of the YU Perspective, and Liorah Rubinstein, President of SCDS, sat in a boardroom with President Berman, the social media team, donors and deans of the school to discuss improving the campaign.
On the day of the campaign, Wilf offered food trucks and a calling center for both Yeshiva College and Stern College students to help call potential donors and take pledges. At Beren, there was also food and YU swag freely available.
On both campuses, students were encouraged to write to donors and teachers, and there was a heavy emphasis on spreading the word on social media. Both campuses had space set aside for posing and posting pictures. Throughout the day, there were online puzzles and trivia games to win funds for specific programs, and for students to win vouchers for restaurants.
Stern Junior Rachel Zakharov, who volunteered downtown at Stern College, posted pictures with faculty members, one of which was retweeted by the YU account. She took part in the #YUHero challenge and won.
“I won the #YUHero challenge, so I got to donate $5,000. I got to allocate to any program or school of my choice, and I chose the YU scholarship fund,” says Zakharov.“I had a great time. It was so much fun doing it with all my friends and having to call people. I thought it was run pretty well. I thought the staff were pretty engaging. They were walking up to the students, telling them to participate in things, and write thank you notes.”
Students as a whole liked #YUHero. Liorah Rubinstein, SCW ‘18, lauded the campaign. “As a graduating senior, it’s important to me to see to the continued success of my soon to be alma mater. For me it is not about the dollars and cents; it is about the student body, faculty and extended YU family rallying together in support of something we feel is worth fighting for.”
Others, however, felt that the campaign should have allowed for more extensive campus involvement. “I found the #YUHeros to be a rather exclusive campaign. As opposed to #IamYU, which allowed every student who so wished to express their pride in YU, this campaign required one to be nominated. Effectively this led to only a certain segment of the YU population being promoted as YU heroes, while most of the student body was ignored.” said Miriam Klahr, SCW ‘18.