SU Gives: Seven Successful Years


Adeline Ong

SU Gives Signage.

Each year, Seattle University holds SU Gives, a 24-hour event of giving that supports multiple organizations across campus. This year, the Seattle U community raised over $800,000, and in the coming weeks, the final total will be tallied.

Rather than making a donation to Seattle U in general, donors could make a selection from one of over 80 funds that support a specific area on campus. 

Katie Chapman, senior director of development for university initiatives, discussed the variety of funds that were available and why it is set up this way. 

“We know that folks like to care about different parts of the campus, so the [colleges, schools and different departments] on campus put forward the funds that they think their alumni, friends and supporters would most want to give to,” Chapman said. 

One of the funds that people could donate to was the Seattle U Fund, a general, unrestricted pool used for institutional resources to ensure the success of students. Chapman explained that this fund typically supports initiatives that align with the strategic directions of the university, but also emphasizes student scholarships. 

Donors could also choose to support scholarship funds directly, including the annual scholarship fund, which helps to support the financial needs of Seattle U students. 

Jordan Grant, assistant provost for student financial services, discussed how Washington state does not offer state-funded support for private institutions, making scholarship funding especially important for bringing students to Seattle U. The availability of scholarships helps students offset the direct cost of tuition, fees, room and board, allowing them to maintain enrollment and be in their desired programs. 

“Scholarships are really important for a place like Seattle U. Some students who may qualify for different types of [financial] aid at a lower cost state school may not be as successful at those schools with higher numbers of students,” Grant said. “We want to make sure that students who find Seattle U to be the best fit for them have the ability to access that education. Scholarships help those students do that.” 

While Seattle U guarantees scholarships and grants that will be effective for four years, Grant stated that costs will rise slightly each year. He also explained that although federal grant and loan programs will offer more money, it is usually not enough to cover the difference. 

Considering that the student retention rate is a persistent concern at Seattle U, which has also impacted the university’s finances, Grant explained that scholarships are equally as important for retaining enrollment. 

“Where SU Gives and donor-funded help is really important, is that those scholarships help support those differences in costs as they go up,” Grant said. “That helps [Seattle U] to retain students through the next quarter, next year and hopefully through graduation.”

Janelle Simms, Seattle U’s director of annual giving, provided an overview regarding the demographics of the donors that are making an impact. While alumni and donors of all ages participate in SU Gives, due to the online nature of the 24-hour fundraiser, day-of donations typically come from the younger population.

“They’re the ones that are on Instagram and scrolling and seeing all of the things on Facebook and stuff like that, so I think that’s primarily our online day of participation,” Simms said. 

On the other hand, Simms also added that the older alumni base supports the cause through early giving and funding challenges. Challenges are sums of money, typically in the thousands, that are unlocked when funds receive a certain number of gifts. 

However, regardless of whether challenge goals are met, legacy donors to the school are still invested in SU Gives, meaning there isn’t a risk of a failure to reach a challenge goal leading to a loss of funding. Simms reassured that the challenges are simply there to motivate others to give and that they have never had a major donor come back and ask for a refund on a challenge.  

“Donors love their causes and they’re willing to put a large chunk of money behind something, so they obviously care about it, and they’re passionate about it,” Simms said. “They just want to see that increased participation and they just want to have that philanthropic support.” 

With a seventh successful year of SU Gives, the fundraising event will continue to serve as an important component of the university’s fundraising regime. With the help of the broader Seattle U community, the funds will continue to support students, while also improving campus resources, creating lasting impacts for years to come. 

Editor’s Note: The Spectator received donations during the SU Gives campaign.