May 31, 2021
Giving Day 2021 success opens doors for students, sets fundraising record
Despite the challenges of the past year, including the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic downturn, University of Calgary donors made Giving Day 2021 our most successful to date — which translates into, among other things, more experiential learning opportunities for students.
On April 22, UCalgary held its fifth annual Giving Day, bringing together alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends to raise an incredible $1.67 million in support of students, research and the campus community. In addition to setting a new fundraising record, Giving Day 2021 saw more donors and more gifts than in previous years. The campaign is a favourite among donors, as their gifts can have double the impact, with all eligible donations matched, dollar for dollar, up to $2,500 per gift.
The impact of Giving Day donations on students can be profound. For example, the Innovation, Discovery and Experiential Activities in Science (IDEAS) Fund at the Faculty of Science relies on Giving Day support to help students learn, grow and develop, both inside and outside the classroom.
“Each student’s experience is unique, shaped by the course activities they engage in, as well as their own journeys and circumstances outside the classroom,” says Dr. Wendy Benoit, associate dean of teaching, learning and student engagement. “In the Faculty of Science, the IDEAS Fund provides an avenue for donations to directly support individual students engaging in professional development.”
Donations directly support students
The majority of funds raised through Giving Day go toward student support programs and initiatives, including critical bursaries, scholarships to attract and retain students, and improvements in the student experience.
For third-year computer science student Rachel Ralph, it was a professional development opportunity that took her education to the next level. With financial assistance from the IDEAS Fund, Ralph was able to attend the 2020 Grace Hopper Conference, the world’s largest gathering of women in computer science and data science careers.
“It was really interesting to be immersed in that world and absorbing as much of it as I could,” says Ralph of the conference. “I learned a lot of skills and got a lot of general advice, and I feel like the community and networking part was also very important.”
Hands-on learning and networking outside the classroom give students a leg up and empower them to become leaders in their field — and they’re often only made possible with the generous support of UCalgary’s philanthropic community.
“I really appreciate [the opportunity] because it was one of those things where I wasn’t sure if I could have gone without [donor support], and I’m not sure how many of my classmates could have gone without it either,” adds Ralph. “I’m not sure if it would have been possible without their contribution.”
For Ralph, the experience allowed her to connect with other women in computer science — a field in which women are underrepresented — and talk with them about their experiences. Although she has yet to choose a stream in computer science, the conference introduced Ralph to the opportunities available to her upon graduation.
Since its launch in 2017, Giving Day has raised more than $6 million to create lasting, positive change — at UCalgary and in the community — by enriching student experiences, advancing critical research and accelerating innovation.
“Giving Day gives both our university and the broader community a chance to reflect on and celebrate how we work together to support learning,” says Benoit. “Though we think about this year-round, Giving Day adds energy to the projects we are already excited about and provides a deliberate moment for new opportunities to grow.”
With the success of Giving Day 2021, more UCalgary students will have the support necessary to pursue professional development, identify new research opportunities and define their careers — which was certainly the case for Ralph.