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This article previously appeared on News@Northeastern. It was written by Ian Thomsen.

More than 17,000 gifts from 28 countries generated close to $1.3 million in donations to student groups and organizations on campus. Northeastern Giving Day exceeded expectations, especially in the context of the year-long COVID-19 pandemic.

“Going into the day, I thought if we can go flat compared to our 2019 numbers, that will be a success,” said Rick Davis, vice president for alumni relations and one of the organizers of Giving Day. “What’s remarkable is we did better than that.”

The record-setting numbers of 17,521 gifts worth $1,298,707 on Thursday amounted to significant gains since 2019, when Giving Day raised just over $1 million on more than 14,000 donations. (Last year, in lieu of Giving Day, donors were encouraged to give to Northeastern’s We Care Emergency Fund, which has been providing short-term financial assistance to students during the COVID-19 pandemic.)

“We have not been able to have in-person events and activities, there’s been no travel, everything has been on Zoom,” Davis said of the pandemic protocols. “And then to have students and alumni around the world make contributions this year, that really stands out to me.”

The 24-hour philanthropic blitz was fueled by more than 50 challenges.

“People get caught up in the excitement of competition,” said Giving Day organizer Jennifer Gamache, assistant vice president for annual giving at Northeastern. “The minute you put a competition in front of them where you’re saying, ‘My school is going to beat your school,’ everything changes. It’s the fun of the competition that makes the day unique.”

It brought out the best in Katarina Nilsson, a senior forward on the women’s soccer team, who on Monday called teammate Megan Adams, a senior goalkeeper, to discuss Giving Day strategy. They and their teammates generated 427 donations (the most among Northeastern varsity teams) for a total of $32,562, which will help with team expenses. Only the ice hockey teams—$48,569 for the men, $36,530 for the women—raised more.

In the opening minutes of Giving Day, by 12:06 a.m., the women’s soccer team had already turned $100 in donations into a $5,000 gift via the Student Challenge—among the half-dozen challenges won by the team overall.

“It became a full team effort,” said Adams. “Everybody recognized that the best way for us to show our appreciation for all of our donors was to maximize our funds by going after those challenges and being strategic in that way. We just wanted to show our appreciation.”

Many groups focused intently on Giving Day. When Gamache began gauging engagement at 7 a.m. Thursday, she discovered that the LGBTQA Resource Center was close to meeting its challenge of 50 gifts that ultimately resulted in a $10,000 gift to the center.

Overall, Northeastern’s schools and colleges earned $738,570 for student groups and organizations. The Challenge of the Colleges first prize of $30,000 was won by the D’Amore-McKim School of Business with 8,492 gifts. The Northeastern University School of Law (1,024 gifts) received $15,000 for second place, and the College of Arts, Media and Design (489 gifts) finished third for $10,000. 

Rugby dominated the Club Sports competition, with the men’s club generating 912 gifts to earn the $3,000 first prize, followed by the women with 376 gifts for $1,000. 

The Roux Institute at Northeastern University met a $10,000 challenge while participating in its first Giving Day. 

“The amount of money and the level of collaboration we have is pretty incredible,” said Gamache. “What stands out is the fact that everyone gets excited and involved as best they can. It just all came together really well.”

Read more on News@Northeastern.