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Illinois State President Larry Dietz and student Laura Ledin.

Illinois State University President Larry Dietz speaks with student Laura Ledin, who made her first gift to the University during Birds Give Back.

Inaugural Birds Give Back breaks single day giving record

Redbirds came together like never before on February 28 for Birds Give Back, Illinois State University’s first exclusive giving day.

The Illinois State community supported their passion for the University by donating $609,935, according to preliminary numbers. The donated funds support scholarships, facilities and equipment, programs, and faculty.

“Being able to give back to my university was an exciting opportunity after all that it has done for me. I am very proud of being a Redbird and love that I am able to help other students like myself. Having President Dietz there to share the moment was especially cool and made me feel closer to my university.” — Laura Ledin

Several generous donors issued giving challenges and matches throughout the day that unlocked additional gifts in support of the University. Russ Hagen ’80 and his wife, Donna, unlocked $100,000 after 500 individual gifts of any size were made. Keith ’97 and Julie Smith ’89, ’92 gave $25,000 after an additional 300 gifts were made. Throughout the day Illinois State alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends rose to meet these challenges.

Birds Give Back emphasized the importance of participation in the philanthropic process, no matter one’s financial standing. In that spirit, 1,722 gifts were made to the University—the most ever made on a giving day.

“Birds Give Back surpassed all our expectations,” said Senior Director of Annual Giving Jillian Nelson. “Moving from Giving Tuesday to our own giving day was a leap of faith, but Redbirds rose to the challenge.”

Nelson emphasized the importance of participation. “Birds Give Back is really an effort to enhance the culture of philanthropy here at Illinois State University by demonstrating how gifts of all sizes can collectively advance the University.”

Birds Give Back was the culmination of Redbird Philanthropy Week, which was designed to educate the Illinois State community on the importance of philanthropy both on our campus and beyond. Opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to learn about how philanthropy makes their Redbird experience could be found all over campus during the week.

“The goal of Redbird Philanthropy Week is to demonstrate how private support from donors makes it possible for Illinois State to provide a margin of excellence,” said Director of Annual Giving Van Miller. “It’s exciting to exceed fundraising goals, but it’s even more rewarding to watch a community become energized by the power of their collective philanthropy.”

After a successful inaugural year, Nelson and Miller are looking forward to a bright future and a new tradition.

“Redbirds have demonstrated time and again that they love to support their passion at Illinois State,” Nelson said. “With that kind of enthusiasm, Illinois State will continue to rise to greater heights.”

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Birds give back is more than just the sum of the dollars raised. It is an opportunity to help our students learn the value of a culture of giving.

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