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Lehigh Athletics Achieves its Biggest March Mania Giving Challenge

Lehigh athletics went above and beyond in its third annual March Mania student-athlete giving challenge. The department achieved 100% student-athlete participation on 100% of the varsity teams and has far surpassed the previous year’s donor record, making this the most successful March Mania Giving Challenge event yet.

The week-long challenge ran from March 27 to April 3. With participation from every varsity student-athlete, in addition to donations from friends, family, alumni, and supporters, Lehigh Athletics raised a total of $230,575 with 1,388 gifts. This far exceeded the 2016 challenge, which collected $192,000 in 839 gifts. It also surpassed the goal set this year by the athletics department to collect 1,000 gifts.

Alumni involvement in the giving challenge was a big part of March Mania. For each donation a sports team received from an alumnus who played that sport while at Lehigh, the team received a point that counted toward a friendly competition among the teams to receive gifts from the most donors.

Reward incentives encouraged individual teams to raise the most money in different categories, which were the highest percentage of donor participation, the greatest number of donors, and the highest percentage of young alumni donors who graduated after 2007. The team who won a category received $2,000 toward their budget.

Student-athletes were able to donate using their GoldPlus card at collection tables in the student athletic lounge, with cash or check collected by coaches, or online. Alumni who played varsity sports while at Lehigh received emails asking them to participate in the support of their former team and were given updates on the progress of the challenge. Donations were also solicited through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, as well as phone calls.

At the end of the challenge, women’s basketball had the highest percentage of donor participation for the second year in a row, as well as the highest percentage of young alumni donors. The men’s and women’s swimming and diving team had the highest number of donors.

But, the real purpose of the challenge goes beyond fundraising or friendly competition.

The practice of giving back so that future generations will have the same opportunities for success is a value that Lehigh University and the athletics department hope to instill in their students. In the 2017 March Mania kickoff video, President John Simon ’19P emphasized the vital role that donations play in maintaining the quality of the college experience for future students.

“I’d like every generation going forward to experience what the generations of the past have experienced, and a lot of what they enjoyed in college was actually supported by alumni at their time,” Simon said in the video. “Excellence is expensive, and I think it is really important to assure that both academics and athletics remain excellent, and that takes alumni involvement.”

Giving back also reflects students’ appreciation for donations of the past.

In a thank you email sent to all donors following the conclusion of the challenge, Bill Griffin, associate director of athletics for external relations and athletics advancement, said, “We believe this shows how much our current student-athletes appreciate the gifts of alumni who have come before them, their parents, and the Lehigh family in general.”

Former student-athletes agree that giving back is an important part of being a Lehigh alumnus. Chris Marshall ’88, who was a member of the swimming and diving team while at Lehigh, a scholarship recipient, and later Lehigh’s award-winning head swimming and diving coach, says that he still carries the values of appreciation and giving back that he learned as a student.

“Somebody was helping me. So, I started to give back as a sophomore in college,” Marshall said in the video. “I give back because I know it’s going to help someone else have an experience like I had. I can see the difference that my contribution makes to the kids that are in the program today.”

Kendall Garden ’16, who was a member of the women’s lacrosse team as an undergraduate, echoed the sentiment in the video, “I give back because the people before me gave back to me and allowed me to have the experiences at Lehigh that I did. And without those people and their generosity, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”

— Carina Bonasera ’19