Pitt Day of Giving raises more than $2.49 million, up 51% from last year as of early Wednesday

By Mische Holland, Rebecca Johnson, and Suln Yun

The fifth annual Pitt Day of Giving — a 24-hour fundraising initiative — took place all day Tuesday. This year’s PDoG raised $2,494,002, up about 51% from the $1,651,212 during last year’s event.

The total number of donors this year was 11,109 — about a 46% increase from last year’s 7,630. Donors came from all 50 states and six continents, and people could donate for 24 hours starting at midnight on Tuesday.

Groups and individuals in the Pitt community spent the day encouraging alumni and other supporters to donate to their initiatives via social media. Anyone could donate to organizations and funds in six main competition categories — Schools & Colleges, Pitt Alumni Association, Places, Experiences & More, Athletics, Student Organizations and Areas of Greatest Priority — throughout the day’s event.

The Schools & Colleges category consists of schools within the University, such as Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and Pitt Medicine. Unlike last year, Pitt’s regional campuses are also included in this category. Places, Experiences & More includes various organizations part of the University, such as Heinz Memorial Chapel and the University Library System. The Athletics category included funds such as the Pitt Football Championship Fund and the Cheer, Dance & Mascot Championship Fund. The Areas of Greatest Priority category includes the General Scholarship Fund, the Pitt Fund and Panthers Forward. The Student Organizations group consists of various student groups across campus, including Heinz Chapel Choir and Pitt Men’s Glee Club.

PDoG looked a bit different this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, though. Jake Strang, assistant vice chancellor of alumni annual giving, said the event was hosted entirely virtually this year, compared to last year’s in-person programming in the William Pitt Union.

“In the past, we’ve hosted large events at the William Pitt Union, but this year we’re asking the Pitt community to come together online and participate in the day virtually,” Strang said. “We also allowed supporters to make their gifts early to allow them more flexibility, as many faculty, staff and students will not be on campus today.”

Strang added that no event rules or regulations changed for this year’s PDoG. Pitt spokesperson Kevin Zwick said last year that PDoG developed more detailed guidelines following a controversy from 2019 when The Pitt News reported that Pitt Men’s Glee Club allegedly encouraged members to donate for PDoG in exchange for discounts on club expenses or reimbursements.

Besides donations, organizations had the opportunity to earn extra funds through various challenges. One of these challenges was the Power Hour Challenge, which gave participants in the Places, Experiences & More, Schools & Colleges and Student Organization categories the chance to win an extra $1,000 if they received the most donations in their respective hour.

The Pitt Rowing Club — who won this challenge — used the Power Hour to propel to its ultimate first place finish in the Student Organization category. The club took first place with a total of 466 gifts, winning a $5,000 bonus. It raised $12,915 in total.

The Catholic Newman Club got second place in the Student Organization category with 356 gifts, winning a $2,500 bonus.

Andrew Polaski, the business manager of the Catholic Newman Club, said he never expected his club to raise so much money in its first year participating in the competition, but that he is thankful for the opportunity. The club raised $7,982 in all.

“We expected to raise some money, but we honestly weren’t expecting to do nearly as well as we did,” Polaski, a junior industrial engineering major, said. “It was really just a blessing, and a great opportunity to see everybody come together and to do well together.”

Polaski also said the Catholic Newman Club plans to use the money to pay for Catholic speakers and more materials. He added that this money will help the club grow its ministry and spread the gospel on campus.

“We’re all just very, very thankful for what we’ve been given. We just want to be able to do as much as we can with what we have,” Polaski said. “We’re thankful to Pitt as well for putting on Pitt Day of Giving and a platform that we can share in.”

Pittsburgh Attacks Cancer Together placed sixth in the category with 155 gifts. This is the club’s second year participating in PDoG, after winning the Student Organizations competition last year. Mario Crown, the co-director for PACT, said the club had a lot to live up to after its success last year.

“It is incredible to be so successful with Pitt Day of Giving this year, especially coming off winning last year,” Crown, a junior psychology major, said. “We knew that we had a lot to live up to, so all our members worked very hard to spread the message and get friends and family to donate.”

Crown added that PACT will donate all the money it collected to the Hillman Cancer Center. The club raised $1,375 in total.

The Heinz Chapel Choir is also putting the money it earned to good use. According to President Shannon Kelly, HCC is using the money to fund recording projects for this spring. She said the choir is going to pay for a sound engineer and photographer to help members present a virtual “concert” at the end of the semester. HCC finished in 11th place in the Student Organizations category with 55 gifts. The choir raised $5,285.

“The HCC community is so amazing and we really, really appreciate everyone who was able to help out today,” Kelly, a senior environmental science major, said. “This money will be really helpful for us to use for our recording projects this spring, so we are so grateful for your support.”

The Schools & Colleges category also had an opportunity to earn a bonus through the Raise the Bar leaderboard. In the Raise the Bar leaderboard, organizations are rewarded for surpassing their number of PDoG 2020 donors with the greatest percent improvement. Pitt Law took first place in this leaderboard with 181 donors, nearly triple last year’s number — giving the school a $25,000 bonus.

“Dean Amy J. Wildermuth is incredibly grateful for the overwhelming generosity and outpouring of support displayed by the Pitt Law community!” Pitt Law tweeted Tuesday evening.

Pitt Johnstown came in first place in the Schools & Colleges Donor leaderboard with 1,322 donors, receiving a $10,000 bonus.

Osher Lifelong Learning Institute took the top spot in Places, Experiences & More with 350 donors, receiving a $10,000 bonus. Cheer, Dance & Mascot came in first place in the Pitt Athletics category with 528 donors and raised $13,180, receiving a $6,000 bonus.

Panthers Forward had the most donors in the Areas of Greatest Priority with 168 donors and raising $11,090. The African American Alumni Council had the most donors in the Pitt Alumni Association category with 70 donors and raised $6,390.

Editor’s Note: The Pitt News participated in Pitt Day of Giving this year in the Student Organizations Category.