For the fourth straight year, Illinois State completed the mission of Birds Give Back, a day where Redbirds come together to celebrate the University. Thanks to our donors, $960,944 was raised from 2,919 gifts, making this year’s edition the University’s second-best giving day ever following last year’s record-setting show of support.

Senior Director of Annual Giving Jillian Nelson said Birds Give Back 2022, held February 24, might be Illinois State’s proudest giving day yet.

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“Giving day is always an adventure,” Nelson said. “We prepare and plan and you never know exactly how the day will unfold. This year was a challenge with so many things going on in the world, inclement weather, and some technical difficulties. The amazing thing about our Redbird community is that we collectively persisted.”

Multiple donors challenged their fellow Redbirds to make an impact and improve the Illinois State experience for our students. Time after time, donors stepped up to meet those challenges. By the end of the night, 44 challenges were unlocked due to the strong participation from Redbirds across the country.

School of Communication led the way with 328 gifts to set its own record and unlock a $125,000 challenge from Professor Emeritus Larry Long and Dr. Penelope Long. Division of Student Affairs continued its tradition of giving day excellence with four areas in the top 10: the Multicultural Center, the LGBTQ+ Student Support Fund, the Center for Civic Engagement, and University Housing.

In addition, several new units made a big splash during Birds Give Back. Geography, Geology, and Environment came in at number four on our leaderboard with 151 gifts totaling more than $30,000. Other new top 10 performers included Mennonite College of Nursing and Family and Consumer Sciences.

Nelson said that success during Birds Give Back comes down to people who are willing to be champions for their causes.

“For example, the Geography, Geology, and Environment Department brought in 11 gifts last year and this year had 151 gifts totaling more than $30,000,” Nelson said. “This was in large part due to Dr. David Malone, who decided to be an advocate. He leveraged his personal relationships and his excellent work as a professor to help encourage his alumni to support the program that helped propel their careers.”

This year also marked the fourth annual Redbird Philanthropy Week, a time for students to learn about how private support enriches their Redbird experience. Students participated in activities such as “Your $100 Gift,” where they were given $100 of prop money and asked to consider which areas of campus they would support. One lucky student’s name was drawn, and her $100 gift was made by a donor during Birds Give Back. In addition, 2022 marked the second year of the Redbird Philanthropy Quest, a video series with questions students answer for a chance to win prizes. More than 1,200 students completed the Quest, up from 800 last year.

Director of Annual Giving Van Miller, who developed Redbird Philanthropy Week, is pleased with the level of student engagement.

“It’s great to see so many students choosing to learn about philanthropy, especially during a week when so many donors are contributing through Birds Give Back,” Miller said. “I especially enjoyed watching students consider how they would donate $100. We know that making a gift at that level is not realistic for most students and yet they were very thoughtful as they considered what areas of campus are most meaningful to them. I believe experiences like this, as small as it may be, help instill a giving mindset among our students who are Illinois State’s future donors.”

Illinois State University President Terri Goss Kinzy participated in her first Birds Give Back this year and was proud to see what the Redbird community can do when they band together.

“This year’s Birds Give Back was my first time experiencing Illinois State’s own giving day. I’m so impressed by the collective outpouring of support from the Redbird community,” Kinzy said. “Private support from alumni and friends enhances opportunities for research and scholarship, student retention and engagement. Your donations are critical to the University’s ongoing success and I’m grateful for each and every person who contributed.”