One for one and one for all: Wildcats love The (603) Challenge

Thursday, October 18, 2018

A truly successful campaign never ends. Rather, it is so effective at uniting a community in addressing needs and aspiring to new ambitions that it becomes a sustaining force long into the future.

Annual gifts are at the heart of sustainable giving at UNH. During the seven years of CELEBRATE 150, 42,650 annual donors made gifts totaling more than $36.5 million, which represents the campaign's largest gift. Many chose to give during The (603) Challenge — an annual, online tour de force that UNH alumni, faculty, staff, parents and friends have wholeheartedly embraced during the four years of its existence.

Annual Giving totals

The challenge uses a combination of time limits, underwriter-provided matching and bonus funds, realtime reporting, coordinated marketing and grassroots fundraising to stir up excitement and not a little bit of competitive spirit. Since its inception, the number of donors during each challenge period has more than doubled, from 2,057 donors in 2015 to 5,115 donors in 2018. The amount raised increased threefold during the same period, from $273,289 to $854,310. Support from underwriters who have backed the challenge and made it possible has grown from $100,000 to more than $351,000 over the four years.

The results speak for themselves. But what does The (603) Challenge mean beyond dollars and cents? “The culture of philanthropy that has blossomed at UNH as a result of the challenge will set us up for continued success,” says Jackie Peterson, director of annual giving. The challenge highlights the impact that individual donors, by making even modest gifts to the areas they care about most, can have on a wide range of UNH programs. Between 2015 and 2018, the number of unique funds to which donors have directed (603) Challenge giving has grown from 138 to 223.

“Annual giving support for specific areas across the university helps make the UNH experience exceptional,” Peterson says. Without this donor-directed philanthropy, could UNH students still get a great education from a talented faculty? “Sure,” says Peterson, “but the current use funds that help provide better equipment or fund research and other experiential learning opportunities make all the difference.” On the other side of the equation, the challenge has inspired programs across the university to engage with their constituents and keep them connected to the great work happening at UNH.

Annual Giving graphic

Paul College has used funds raised through the challenge to expand its first-year experience program and to build a fund for helping students take advantage of quality internship opportunities. The NH Notables, a campus a cappella group, raised funds to create an album, and the Wildcat Marching Band raised funds to purchase new instruments. Dimond Library will use challenge funds to replace furniture and charging stations, and UNH Global created scholarships for students to study abroad and an emergency fund for international students at UNH.

For Peterson, one of the most meaningful aspects of The (603) Challenge is the UNH pride on display from faculty and staff who rally people to support them and donors who share their support and reach out to peers to join them. “It’s really neat if you are connected to UNH to scroll through your social media feed and see so much UNH pride for so many areas in such a short period of time,” she says.