Last fall, at the Senior Class Gift Kick-Off, President John Simon ’19P challenged the Class of 2016 to obtain 60 percent donor participation. In order to reach that goal, approximately 750 seniors would have to give to Lehigh. If they succeeded, Simon pledged to give a gift of $2,016 to commemorate the Class of 2016.
The class surpassed that goal, reaching 756 donations. In doing so, they broke the all-time senior class giving record of 716 donations.
“It’s nice for people to be able to give a gift to commemorate their class year,” said Casey Sharkey, associate director of student philanthropy.
Sharkey said the senior class gift committee did not have a monetary goal, but rather focused on increasing participation.
“They were super focused on participation and donor count, as opposed to dollars raised,” she said.
The committee was led by five senior class officers who, during the spring of their junior year, recruited other students to join their fundraising efforts that represented various aspects of the campus community.
“The committee members were charged with asking their classmates and peers to support the senior class gift campaign,” Sharkey said.
Sharkey said this year’s senior class gift campaign had momentum from the beginning. Throughout the school year, the committee held a variety of events where they encouraged the Class of 2016 to give back. During the first event, the Senior Class Gift Kick-Off, 140 students donated to the campaign, surpassing the goal of 125.
“That is one of the reasons the campaign is in a really wonderful place right now, because we started the year off much stronger this year than we had in previous years,” Sharkey said.
Seniors were encouraged to make donations to whatever Lehigh designations they are most passionate about. Most students gave to Lehigh’s highest priorities through the Lehigh Fund, as well as scholarships and financial aid. Students also gave to a variety of groups such as academic departments, offices, fraternities and sororities, sports teams, and student organizations.
During the campaign, students were asked to give $5 or more. All students who gave $20.16 and above joined the 2016 Club and were invited to various club events during the end of the year, such as an exclusive Chicken Finger Friday event.
This year, seniors also broke the record for Grad Fair Days gifts. Seniors who attended Grad Fair Days on March 2, 3, and 4 to order caps and gowns had the opportunity to donate to the gift campaign. Almost 500 donations were made during the three days. Other fundraising events throughout the school year included the Lehigh-Lafayette “150” hat campaign, senior class gift solicitation tables, and senior nights, as well as personal outreach.
“We talked to students about how their participation overall helps with our participation percentage and our national ranking, so they can have a hand in making sure that Lehigh remains a top-tier school,” Sharkey said. “It’s about them wanting to sustain the things that have been really meaningful to them.”
The last fundraising event hosted by the committee took place during Distribution Days on May 4 and 5, which was the follow-up to the Grad Fair. During Distribution Days, seniors picked up their caps, gowns, and graduation frames and had the opportunity to make a gift.
Sharkey said students who are aware of the direct impact their donations can have are more eager to give back to Lehigh.
“When you talk to students at Lehigh and ask what was awesome about their experience and what they love here – whether it’s something inside the classroom or out – it’s something they’ve been passionate about and involved in for a long time,” Sharkey said. “What’s really nice for them to recognize is that they can have an immediate impact and they can have a lasting impact, even after they graduate.”