by Kendra Kravig
La Sierra University’s inaugural Giving Day took place on December 9, 2020, with donations being accepted throughout the entirety of the month. Organized by the university’s Office of Advancement, the original goal of $400,000—considered by many to be ambitious—was surpassed by more than $7,000 with donations from over 400 donors.
As a two-time alumnus and current staff member of the university, Sammy Acosta, whose fundraiser for an endowed scholarship had the most donors, considered it an opportunity to pay it forward. “I am forever grateful to La Sierra University for the Christian education I received, the relationships built, the memories gained, and for always having a community to call home,” Acosta says. “As an undergrad student, I relied heavily on scholarships to help pay for my college education. The best way for me personally to to pay it forward is to contribute financially and help raise scholarship money for current and future La Sierra University students.”
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic kept the 2020 Giving Day in the virtual realm, the event brought out a number of new donors because it utilized the MobileCause platform, making it easy and secure for donations to be made. MobileCause also allowed those involved to create their own “fundraisers” for specific projects and causes, such as sophomore Business student Megan Eisele’s fundraiser to aid Enactus’ hydroponics project—an endeavor that will support more than just students. “The Freight Farms project, featured by the Zapara School of Business on Giving Day, will assist Enactus in their efforts to help the community through the produce being grown inside the freight,” she explains.
In addition to student-led projects, La Sierra faculty and alumni also took the opportunity to raise funds for campus needs, such as the Physics Department’s goal to modernize the university’s observatory. In addition to sharing two short videos about the observatory—which are available to watch on the Giving Day webpage—the department also created a fundraiser led by alumnus Arnold Gutierrez. Gutierrez, who serves as the Sciences Advisory Board co-chair, helped raise nearly $15,000. But as someone who also donated funds, he explains that the experience was about more than just raising money. “I think it is imperative to have a Giving Day,” says Gutierrez. “It provides an opportunity for alumni to reconnect with other alumni after a year of losing touch. It is the best reason for alumni and friends of La Sierra to reconnect, to talk about making our alma mater better for students.”
Considering the success of the 2020 event, the university now looks to the future and a second annual event. With any luck, functions for Giving Day 2021 will be able to be hosted on campus, but organizers still recognize the need for virtual participation in the event considering the diversity of the institution and its alumni. “Virtual events, such as Giving Day, give us the opportunity to include members of our community who are unable to visit with us in person,” says university president Dr. Joy Fehr. “We can take La Sierra across the country and indeed, the globe, via Zoom and other similar platforms.” The success of La Sierra’s first Giving Day proves that the community, near or far, is a supportive family network—and the university plans to include each member of the family by once again offering virtual activities during the 2021 event. “Virtual Giving Day,” says Dr. Fehr, “allows us to take La Sierra to wherever [the La Sierra community] may be.”
Giving Day 2021 is scheduled for December 8, 2021.
Hundreds of La Sierra’s students have been struggling over the last year due to the impact of COVID-19. But kindhearted contributors, like those who donated to the Emergency Student Aid Fund, have helped reverse the striking socioeconomic complications of the pandemic on the lives of many of our young scholars. To make a contribution like theirs that can help keep degrees, careers, and lives on track, please visit https://lasierra.edu/donate/.