Birds Gave Back now boasts back-to-back record giving days after Redbirds rose on February 27 to make 2,188 individual gifts to the University totaling $1,118,745, according to preliminary totals. These numbers smash last year’s record-setting 1,734 gifts totaling $609,935.

“Our goal was to set a record for participation, so we were pleased to see that gifts were running ahead all morning,” said Director of Annual Giving Van Miller. “They continued to run ahead all afternoon and into the evening, through midnight, leaving us shocked to realize that there were 25 percent more gifts made this year over last.”

Thanks to generous donor support multiple units across campus saw increases in participation from last year. Big Red Marching Machine raised its gift total from two to 82, raising $18,805 in the process. The Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning received 120 gifts this year after receiving 10 in 2019, raising $9,795 to help make a Redbird impact.

These increases are thanks in part to donors and campus partners issuing giving challenges and matches throughout the day that unlocked additional gifts supporting Illinois State. By the end of the day, Illinois State alumni, students, faculty, staff, and friends met more than 20 of these challenges. When Illinois State broke the single-day giving record, Redbird supporters Jack and Kim North generously gave $500,000 to the University to celebrate the accomplishment.

“Challenges like these generate excitement and build momentum among all donors as we encourage the larger Redbird community to participate in the philanthropy process,” said Senior Director of Annual Giving Jillian Nelson. “Every gift truly matters.”

The immense support from Illinois State faculty and staff also helped drive this year’s record-breaking participation. Birds Give Back ambassadors were particularly active over social media, with 130 verified ambassadors reaching out to influence over $23,000 in gifts.

Several new strategies also helped Illinois State reach potential donors and thank them after they helped Redbirds rise. More than 200 gifts totaling approximately $16,000 were made by donors contacted via text messaging, a first for Illinois State’s fundraising efforts. Videos promoting the event, including a collaboration with YouTube star and Illinois State alumnus Keith Habersberger ‘08, were viewed more than 56,000 times. Illinois State also took the time to send personalized thank you videos starring our students to Birds Give Back participants via email.

Birds Give Back is part of Redbird Philanthropy Week. Held the week after the Founding Celebration, Redbird Philanthropy Week honors those that give to the University and educates the campus community about the importance of giving back.

“Hundreds of students participated in Redbird Philanthropy Week activities this year,” Miller said. “In addition to learning how philanthropy improves the Redbird experience, many students helped encourage donor participation by filming short videos to donors, and thanked donors by writing notes following Birds Give Back.”

Nelson said she was excited but not surprised to see Redbirds rise to the record-breaking challenge. That confidence in the Illinois State community has her already looking forward to what we can accomplish in 2021.

“Birds Give Back was undoubtedly a soaring success,” Nelson said. “We are already looking ahead to next year to how we can expand our reach and mobilize the Redbird community to help transform Illinois State as we come together to do something remarkable. With over 200,000 alumni there is plenty of room to continue growing Birds Give Back participation!