This year the Office of Alumni Engagement and Outreach set its most ambitious goal for the Blue Demon Challenge yet: If 450 people give money to DePaul in just one day, alumnus Jack Cummins would donate $25,000 to various funds across the school.
The idea of getting that many people — up 250 from last year’s goal of 200 — to participate was enough to make the event’s organizers nervous, said Jessi Donaldson, the director of annual and special giving for the Division of Advancement in the Office of Alumni Outreach and Engagement.
“It’s so scary every year,” Donaldson said. “Our first year, our goal was 100 donors in one day, which for us is a lot. It’s a lot of guesswork, but we have to go up (in participation numbers) every year.”
Despite initial fears, the challenge yielded a record turnout. When all was said and done, 672 alumni, staff, students and other members of the DePaul community came together on Jan. 28 to raise nearly $27,000. That’s in addition to Cummins’ $25,000 gift.
The Blue Demon Challenge is an annual event chaired by the Office of Alumni Outreach and Engagement in conjunction with the Future Alumni Association.
It’s been held for the past three years during Blue Demon Week, and each year has brought an incrementally higher donations from alumni – from $5,000, to $10,000, up to this year’s $25,000 gift.
Cummins, who donated this year, is a 1988 graduate of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a 1992 graduate of the College of Law.
Donaldson said that the chief goal of the event is participation, whether through a small or large donation. Every dollar helps make a difference.
“The cost of tuition, believe it or not, does not cover the entire cost of a DePaul education. Which a lot of people are surprised to find out,” Donaldson said. “Our goal is to get people interested in giving, and to show the collective impact.”
To raise alumni awareness of the one-day fundraising event, the Office of Alumni relations campaigned heavily on social media and by email to DePaul graduates. They also utilized telethon callers, many of whom are academic scholarship recipients, to personally appeal to potential donors.
Donors get to choose where their funds are distributed. Oftentimes that means that they give to certain colleges, scholarship funds or programs that had an impact on their lives while they attended DePaul.
“We wanted to push the idea of giving to your fellow students and helping out (a fellow) Blue Demon,” said Kyla Patterson, president of the Future Alumni Association. “So there was a lot of people donating to scholarships and programs that they had been involved in at DePaul.”
Donors’ interests were varied, although Patterson said scholarship funds tend to receive the most money.
According to the Office of Advancement, “the majority of alumni chose to direct their gifts to student scholarship funds” during the challenge.
Another important area that donors can give to is the student emergency fund, which is a pool of money designed to act as a safety net for students who find themselves in dire financial need, such as when they are unable to pay for food, toiletries or make monthly rent.
Even amid an all-around impressive turnout, event organizers were particularly pleased with the amount of current DePaul students that chose to donate this year. Out of the 672 total donors, 112 were students.
“It’s very nice for me, as someone who works primarily with alumni, to say ‘look at what our students are doing’ and show them that,” Donaldson said. “That gets them really excited and makes them want to get involved too.”
She added that the benefits become cyclical — student participation encourages alumni participation, and the overwhelming outpour of alumni support helps current students see how important it is to give back to the DePaul community after graduation.
“I think students matriculate and never really realize how much they benefitted from alumni support,” Donaldson said. “So the more that we can pull back the curtain and show what a caring community the greater DePaul family is, the better.”