Inspiring a passion for helping out

Sun Devil Giving Day part of ASU's tradition of generosity; organizers want to connect people's interests with a spirit of philanthropy

Students take a selfie in front of a board full of Sun Devil Giving Day notes.

Some people live to give, while others might need a gentle nudge.

Introducing the idea of philanthropy and supporting higher education — on any financial level, even as modest as the cost of a cup of coffee — is what Sun Devil Giving Day is all about.

On Friday, thousands of Sun Devil alumni, families, faculty, staff and students will celebrate the fourth annual event by supporting the university’s education initiatives and research ventures with a goal of solving some of the most pressing issues facing society.

“We are young in regards to our philanthropic arm, but I like to say that this is a return to our roots because ASU was founded on a gift of land from George and Martha Wilson,” said Tiffany Antor, director of Sun Devil Giving, a division of the ASU Foundation for a New American University.

“It’s not about what have you done, but what could you do if you had the money to pledge? One of the things I love about ASU is that there are so many places you could donate your philanthropic dollars.

“If you care about water or sustainability or third-world countries, ASU has multiple programs where you could designate your support. It’s really about finding out what your passion is and presenting an opportunity to show potential donors can make a difference.”

More than 1,600 people made a difference last year when they pledged their support, ranging from $5 to a seven-figure amount. Antor said this year the goal is a 20 percent increase in gifts, bringing the total to approximately 2,000 pledges of support.

“We’re not particularly focused on the dollar amount, but trying to encourage a culture of philanthropy,” Antor said. “We know students are paying tuition and textbooks, but we’re hoping they consider contributing philanthropically after they graduate.”

Philanthropy helps the university innovate, educate and pay it forward. ASU programs include developing a jet pack to help soldiers in war enhance their speed and agility to outpace the enemy; developing devices for use in NASA missions, including the Mastcam-Z camera, which will provide eyes for the Mars 2020 mission rover; and awarding almost 8,000 scholarships to students in 2014.

ASU student Rachel Williams and her kids

ASU student Rachel Williams (with her kids, Aiden, 9, and Makayla, 15) says philanthropy can be life-changing, as was the ASU Sun Devil Family Association Scholarship she received. Photo courtesy Rachel Williams

In the case of Rachel Williams, the generosity of others has not only changed the trajectory of her career, but will improve her overall quality of life.

The 34-year-old student and mother of two attended cosmetology school in the early 2000s and had an $18,000 debt by the time she graduated. The combination of a divorce and her debt left her financially destitute at times.

“My lifestyle had changed after the divorce, and every dollar I made was already spent. If I had a flat tire, I didn’t have the money to get it fixed,” Williams said. “It was a big leap to go back to school, but I was ready for a career change. I also wanted to give my children a reason to go to college and set the example.”

Williams attended Phoenix College from 2011 to 2015, and transferred to ASU’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions last summer. Paying for tuition and textbooks continued to be a challenge until she learned of the ASU Sun Devil Family Association Scholarship, which offers students up to $5,000 annually.

“I cried when I received the letter in the mail notifying me of the scholarship. It was a huge relief because I don’t think I would have been able to continue,” said Williams, who will graduate this summer and plans on attending graduate school. “People need to know that philanthropy isn’t just a helping hand because in my case it was life-changing. It’s not just important to me but will improve my children’s lives and our overall well-being.”

A student participates in Sun Devil Giving Day by pinning a note to a board.

Industrial Design major Margaret Marcinkowski was one of 1,600 people who donated a gift to the university during Sun Devil Giving Day last year. Top photo: Ha Mai and Ruben Olmedo take a selfie in front of the Giving Day card board, where students can post areas of the university they want to receive support. This and top photo by Felipe Ruiz/ASU Foundation

There are three ways to participate on Sun Devil Giving Day:

• Join the discussion on social media by following the ASU Foundation on Facebook and Twitter.

• Share a story using the hashtag #SunDevilGiving and encourage family and friends to do the same.

• Make an online gift on March 18 to any area of ASU including a school, unit, program or scholarship account.

To raise awareness, the ASU Foundation will set up tables from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Palm Walk and Tyler Mall, at University Drive and College Avenue and on the W. P. Carey School of Business patio on the Tempe campus, and from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Downtown Phoenix campus between the University Center and the Cronkite School. The tables will include Sun Devil Giving Day cards, on which students can write which areas of the university they would like to see supported.

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