Connecting with Donors in Meaningful Ways at Creighton University

By Rick Davis, Director of Communications, Creighton University

 Former Creighton student-athlete Judy (Richmeier) Pritza received the Leaders for Life Award at the University’s 2017 Leaders for Life Luncheon. Since its inception, Leaders for Life has raised more than $900,000 for endowed and annual scholarships for outstanding female leaders (photo courtesy of Creighton University)

Former Creighton student-athlete Judy (Richmeier) Pritza received the Leaders for Life Award at the University’s 2017 Leaders for Life Luncheon. Since its inception, Leaders for Life has raised more than $900,000 for endowed and annual scholarships for outstanding female leaders (photo courtesy of Creighton University)

Creighton University, located in Omaha, NE, is reaching out to its wide range of donors in some unique ways, with programming and events designed for women, families and alumni of multiple generations.

“We are continually looking for ways to connect Creighton and its mission with our various philanthropic constituents,” said Matt Gerard, Creighton’s vice president for university relations. “It is not a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Alumni, parents, friends of the University, current students and the wider philanthropic community are all part of the equation. According to Gerard, “We not only offer various ways to give, but we look for meaningful connections to involve our donors more deeply in our mission. We want them to understand, on a personal level, how their gifts impact our students.” 

To that end, Creighton hosts an annual Scholarship Appreciation Luncheon, which provides an opportunity for donors who have named scholarships to meet with the student recipients. The invitation list includes all original donors of named annual and endowed scholarships; donors who have made a significant gift to named scholarships; relatives of namesake scholarships when the namesake is deceased; and other prospects as identified by gift officers and donors. Donors see firsthand the importance of their gifts in the stories shared by the students. Speakers at the luncheon include Gerard, Creighton President, Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, S.J., and a student scholarship recipient.

In addition to the scholarship luncheons, Creighton has developed an award-winning video series, “Student Stories from the Jesuit Gardens,” in which students talk about their Creighton experiences and thank donors for their support. The videos have been shared through targeted e-mails with alumni, parents, faculty, staff and friends.

This year marks Creighton’s 13th annual Leaders for Life Luncheon, a fundraising event that recognizes Creighton’s female student-athletes. Leaders for Life gifts support endowed and annual scholarships that ensure the continued education and graduation of outstanding female leaders. Since its inception, Leaders for Life has raised more than $900,000.

The Leaders for Life Luncheon celebrates women as leaders and allows female student-athletes the opportunity to thank the supporters of women’s athletics who make it possible for the athletes to compete in the BIG EAST Conference at the NCAA Division I level. In addition, the Leaders for Life Award and the Believe and Achieve Award are presented to two influential supporters of women’s athletics for their continued leadership and advancement at Creighton and in the community.

 Photo courtesy of Creighton University

Photo courtesy of Creighton University

On April 11, Creighton hosted its inaugural Giving Day, a 24-hour online fundraising event through which donors could lend their support to 67 different areas of campus – from social justice programs to academic resources, athletics, scholarships and more. 

The event primarily targeted younger alumni, but was open to all members of the Creighton Bluejays community, with the tagline “We Fly Together” (the social media hashtag was #FlyTogetherGiveTogether). It included some matching-gift opportunities; in addition, individuals who made a gift of $25 or more received a pair of Creighton socks. The event was promoted mostly through social media and e-mail campaigns, and included a promotional video, and an e-mail message from Fr. Hendrickson to faculty, staff, students, alumni and parents welcoming their participation.

The event well exceeded its goal of 1,000 donors in 24 hours, as more than 3,000 donors contributed $712,570 in online gifts. Gifts were tracked in real time, both to the overall campaign and to the individual programs. Donors could also include their names and gift amounts online. Many of the individual programs met or surpassed the goals they had set. A thank-you e-mail was sent from Fr. Hendrickson to faculty, staff, students, alumni and parents the following day. 

In December, Creighton’s Office of Alumni Relations and Donor Engagement hosted a ZooLights holiday party at the Phoenix Zoo. This family-friendly event attracted more than 200 alumni, parents and friends, engendering goodwill for Creighton University. It is one of a number of events across the country, including those surrounding Creighton presidential visits and athletic competitions, that are sponsored by the Office of Alumni Relations and Donor Engagement. Since the first quarter of fiscal year 2018, the events have attracted more than 9,500 participants.

“We hope to meet donors where they are in life and provide opportunities for them to be partners in our mission,” said Gerard. “It’s extremely exciting and rewarding. As we continue to look for new ways to engage current and new donors in the life of our University, we are fortunate to have Fr. Hendrickson, who has a clear vision for our future, and to have donors who believe in what Creighton does for its students, the community and the world.”