ContribUTe fundraiser surpasses last year’s donations despite transition to virtual campaign

Samantha Greyson

The Student Foundation, a student organization focused on giving, raised $51,215 for its virtual ContribUTe campaign to UT student services this October, surpassing the $36,287 raised last year.

The ContribUTe campaign highlights three donation designations, including the Counseling and Mental Health Center, UT Outpost and the Student Emergency Fund. Unlike last year, almost half of all donations went to the Student Emergency Fund, said Amber Keith, Student Foundation staff adviser.

“Last year, the Counseling and Mental Health Center was by far the most popular designation students gave to,” Keith said. “Almost half of the gifts students gave last year were to the Counseling and Mental Health Center. This year, the most popular one is the Student Emergency Fund.”

Keith said many students were unaware of the services provided by the Student Emergency Fund during last year’s campaign.

“Most students weren’t aware of it because they never had to use it before,” Keith said. “Now, we see a very different reaction to it. They really feel like, okay that’s a tangible way I can help, I can give to this fund, I know exactly what it does and I know it helps my classmates.”

The Student Foundation was forced to change their campaign strategy due to COVID-19, Keith said. Last year, ContribUTe had a large on-campus presence, where the Student Foundation spent 40 hours tabling on campus to collect donations, she said.

“About half of the thousand donations they got in last year were from in person peer to peer fundraising,” Keith said. “They had to adapt to that this year by having a much larger social media presence. They had to be much more strategic about sending out more emails that were more personalized.”


This was the first year the Student Foundation used text messaging to campaign for ContribUTe, Keith said. Andres Villa, an advertising and radio-television-film senior, created an animated infographic detailing what the ContribUTe project is and how students can donate. The video was posted on HornRaiser as part of the campaign’s virtual presence.

“Usually for ContribUTe videos, we have students talking to the camera, so we are able to get a personal story out of them,” Villas said. “Given COVID-19, we couldn't really do that. We had to create an animated video instead.”

Student Foundation president Jonathan Cope said the organization’s executive board was worried the fundraiser would not be as successful as previous years and meet the campaign's goal of 1,000 student donations.

“In the past, a lot of our engagement was in person,” said Cope, an arts and entertainment technology senior. “Even though we fund-raised online, we would hand out pamphlets (and) flyers (and) we tabled as a group on Speedway. Last year, we had a very responsive on campus presence and this year we have a very responsive online presence.”

Cope said this year, student philanthropy is especially important. Departments such as the CMHC, Student Emergency Services and UT Outpost can help students through issues created by COVID-19, Cope said.

“There are probably more people now than ever that are in need of financial help,” Cope said. “I know of a lot of students being laid off from their jobs, and I know a lot of families being laid off that support students.”