Although the presence of COVID-19 has disrupted many functioning aspects of the school year, it did not halt the annual fundraising event known as SU Give Day. Started in 2014, the event serves to increase representation, attendance and funding for the Southern University school system, with alumni and various other members of the Jaguar family participating and leading.
SU Give Day is typically held in The Valdry Center for Philanthropy, a collaborative space founded by the SUS Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation as well as Leon, Warren and Virginia Valdry, natives of West Baton Rouge parish and Southern alumni.
SU Give Day acts as the last day of the Million Dollar March; which is described by the Southern University System (SUS) Foundation as “a viral and direct mail volunteer-led fundraising campaign that endeavors to encourage alumni and friends to join together and secure philanthropic contributions for the campuses and departments of the Southern University and A&M College System.”
Alfred Harrell III, CEO of the SUS Foundation and director of the Valdry Center, gave an in depth explanation on the nature of the event, and how it relates to Southern’s growing philanthropic relationship with supporters :“It was one of [the SUS Foundation’s] volunteers - and now one of our board of trustees - James Brown. He had the idea of bringing a group of alumnus together and asking each one of them to give a thousand dollars, to raise a million dollars...Why not expand that more than individuals who are giving a thousand - whatever someone can give,” said Harell.
While the event would traditionally bring in crowds of supporters to the Baton Rouge campus, this year’s SU Give Day was held instead in a virtual setting, due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead of viewing this change as an inconvenience, Harrell noted how this played a factor in boosted participation: “It’s actually helped us grow and use multiple platforms to develop deeper relationships with alumni as well as students. So, we’ve gone pretty much 95% electronic, and what we’re doing here today is all viral...Our team of volunteers, donors and students have been great, we’re running right now about $800,000 ahead of what we were at this time last year.”
Harrell emphasizes that regardless of circumstances, the mission of the Valdry Center shouldn’t be lost on students,”College is the best of your time. Understand that your responsibility once you graduate - after you study hard and have a good time - is to invest back into your school.”
While there’s hope that next year’s SU Gives Day will take a step back towards normal with more traditional proceedings, organizers of this year’s event made the most of the circumstances provided by the pandemic and boasted a successful virtual turnout.