College celebrates “Giving Day”

The College has seen a recent push to bolster its network with “Paving the Road” events and regular involvement from parents and alumni, including the College’s active Alumni Council. “One of the missions of the alumni counsel is to create ways in which alumni can engage with the College,” Vice Chair of the College’s Alumni Council David Epstein ’86 said. “Students are obviously a big part of the College, so we always want to try to create events that students are going to find engaging.”

In celebration of the College’s third annual Giving Day, the Alumni Council, Office of Alumni Relations, Colby Career Center and Goldfarb Center for Public Affairs and Civic Engagement organized a number of events geared toward engaging both students and graduates alike. While a number of these events centered on fundraising, all of them were geared to foster cross-generational interaction.

The Feb. 27 Giving Day celebrates the date on which Colby’s original charter was signed in 1813. According to Director of the Colby Fund and Interim Director of Alumni Relations Carolyn G. Kimberlin, “Our first Giving Day took place during Colby’s Bicentennial year, and it was a great celebration at all levels—students, staff, alumni, faculty—and we really wanted to make this day about demonstrating all the ways that alumni give back to their alma mater.”

According to Assistant Director of the Colby Fund Alison Brown, donations were up from last year. “I think the energy and buzz that president Greene had created on campus and with the alumni network is one of the reasons for this. His wanting to give alumni more choices in their giving is another thing that has surely added to this as well. When [Colby alumni know] where their money is going in a very specific way, they are more inclined to give.

In terms of annual giving for 2015, potential donors were charged with a new goal, as an anonymous Colby family offered to donate $250,000 in a tiered challenge. If, by giving day, the College had at least 5,500 donors, they would contribute $50,000; $100,000 for at least 6,500 and if Colby reached 7,500 donors, the College would receive the full $250,000. “Right now we are closing in on 6,400 donors, but still have to process gifts for a few more days,” Kimberlin said on Monday. “We will be very close to the 6,500 goal.”

However, Kimberlin stressed that the idea of giving can take on a number of definitions: “Many give back philanthropically, but a great number also volunteer, mentor, network, and provide assistance to students in a variety of ways,” she continued. “We talk about it as the ‘Three Ts of Giving’: time, talent, and treasure. Externally we were spending a lot of time this month encouraging alumni to give back philanthropically to the College, but we also wanted to highlight how our Alumni Council members in particular give back their time and talent.”

Assistant Director of Alumni Relations Meghan Gray agreed: “When people think about philanthropy, they usually only consider monetary donations. [Alumni] who volunteer time and talent are just as valuable as people who write a big check. Money helps to build and fund programs, but talent and time makes a big impact.”

According to Gray, “[The Office of Alumni Relations] plans our events around the feedback we receive, and many people said that those events were too formal and made students nervous.” In response, they worked with Colby’s Student Alumni Association (SAA), as well as other students and alumni, to “rebrand and organize opportunities for more informal and organic conversation.”

This holistic approach to bolstering cross-programmatic engagement has been a major effort by the Alumni Council and a personal charge of Epstein’s, who has spent countless hours organizing alumni-related events. “The programming for students is multifaceted,” Epstein said. “Alumni should get as much out of it as the students do.”

Epstein teaches a JanPlan course in meteorology, and as an independent meteorologist and journalist working for news outlets across New England, Epstein relishes the connections and insight this continued involvement with his alma mater provides.

Among the many events this weekend, two came as a direct result of this kind of mutualistic exchange. In addition to his class, Epstein also participates in activities with the Colby Outing Club (COC) and in doing so, was able to speak with John Bengston ’15 and Logan Gillen ’17.

These conversations helped to brainstorm ideas for events that students would want to attend, namely the Alumni Council and Student Activities Dinner and Team Trivia in Foss Dining Hall and a Goldfarb-sponsored performance by Boston-based comic Jimmy Tingle.

During his time at the College, Epstein majored in biology, wrote a weather column for the _Echo_ and was an active member of the Delta Upsilon fraternity. He reiterated the benefits of engagement lasting longer than a student’s four years: “Students self-select affinities while they’re here,” Epstein said. “When students have the opportunity to meet with alumni, they’re going to have a shared experience….From a student standpoint, it’s about not being afraid to interact. Alumni are just like you—just as enthusiastic—just a little bit older,” emphasizing the Alumni Council’s mantra, “Colby for 4, Colby for Life.”

“It took a lot of different departments and we all worked together in our individual roles,” Gray added. “We received thanks from students and alumni alike, which I think is a win-win….I think our alumni feel that Colby shaped so much about their life personally or professionally, and they want to give that same experience.”

UPDATE March 4, 2015: According to Gray, the final total for 2015 Giving Day donations was $6538.00, qualifying the College for a $100,000 donation from the anonymous donors.

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