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#Falcon5K fundraiser exceeds expectations

May 6, 2015

An overwhelming number of people donated money to support the #Falcon5K, the first all-day, online fundraiser at UW-River Falls, hosted on May 1 by the UWRF Foundation committee.

The goal was to raise $5,000 through online donations in just one day. By the end of the day, the #Falcon5K received 167 gifts and raised $18,585 in just 12 hours.

All the donations go toward the Falcon Annual Fund, which supports UWRF strategic initiatives such as academic programs, classroom and laboratory instruction, and grants to improve the student experience, according to the UWRF website.

UWRF Foundation Annual Giving Coordinator Sarah French said that the money raised will directly benefit the university in numerous ways.

“Those are dollars that we can spend today. That’s what we really wanted with this was to raise money for that unrestricted fund because those are funds that we can use today,” French said. “It will have a direct impact on the campus.”

None of the contributions will be used for regular operating purposes of the university or the Foundation, according to the UWRF website.

The idea for the event spawned from other universities’ successes with online fundraisers. In the past, the UWRF Foundation hosted other types of fundraisers but never attempted to raise a certain amount of money in a single day like this.

The event was developed by French as a way to promote support for UWRF. It was hosted completely online with the help of social networks.

French said a goal of doing an online fundraiser was to reach young alumni (graduates of UWRF in the last decade) because they're the fastest growing and biggest population of alumni and online is the best way to reach out to them.

“We really wanted to engage with those young alums and keep them engaged with their campus and their alma mater and just thought this might be a fun way to do it,” French said.

"Power hours" were spread out throughout the day to encourage more people to donate and win prizes. According to the #Falcon5K website, people could give multiple times throughout the day to maximize the potential to win prizes and give more. The minimum amount for each gift was $5.

Donations were matched or doubled during power hours and donors’ names were entered to win prizes such as an iTunes gift card, a Falcon sweatshirt, tickets for two to the VIP Room at Ramer Field for a 2015 Falcon football game and other gifts.

During each specific power hour, every donation was matched by many sponsors, including First National Bank, the UWRF Alumni Association, and Foundation board member Greg Wheelock and spouse, Donnette, according to the #Falcon5K website.

Research and Engagement Specialist Jennifer Moore said the generous giving was exciting for a new event, especially during a financially challenging time.

“We had great results. People giving multiple times throughout the day and definitely exceeding our expectations and just really making it very fulfilling for us,” Moore said.

According the UWRF website, campus employees contributed 42 percent of the gifts, with an average UWRF employee donation of $40.50. The statistic shows the dedication that employees have to the campus.

“It was huge; it was really great to see faculty support,” French said.

Moore said that 25 percent of the day’s donors were young alumni and there were even some new donors, which Moore said was rewarding to see names of people they knew while they were students at UWRF and are now able to give back to their institution.

“It was one of those opportunities where teaming up together, being able to use social media, being able to use, you know, the other mediums that we hadn’t explored before for a fundraising tool was really great for us,” Moore said.

After receiving feedback throughout the event and learning from this experience, Moore said that this is definitely the future of annual giving.

“I think this is really the mark right now for the direction that annual giving is going in terms of online giving and really focusing on making a day of having an obtainable goal that people can be a part of,” Moore said.

French said they definitely want to do a similar event next year.