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Students Today Alumni Tomorrow text next to an image of four students posing with an oversized ILR photo frame

ILR Giving Day Finds Success Among Students

Cornell Giving Day 2024 broke the university’s record for the number of undergraduate students making donations, and a number of current ILRies were among those who gave.

Bolstered by a new initiative – Students Today Alumni Tomorrow (STAT) Philanthropy Week – ILR spent three days leading up to Giving Day by engaging with current students about the important role philanthropy plays at the school.

“We have Giving Day every year, but what does that even mean to students,” said Penny Lane Spoonhower, associate director of ILR Alumni Affairs and Development (AAD).

“So, we wanted to implement a program that started engaging students as early as their first year on campus and involve, encourage and educate them on how philanthropy helps students like them.”

On the first day, AAD sent a video hosted by Patrick Mehler ’23, M.S. ’25, explaining the importance of philanthropy. Mehler was joined in the video by Jack Raymond ’60, Doug Braunstein ’83 and Josh and Deborah Gray, parents of ILRie Nicholas Gray ’25. The AAD staff also held an event in the Doherty Lounge that focused on educating students on how donors support ILR.

Patrick Mehler (ILR ‘23)
Patrick Mehler ’23, M.S. ’25

“The alumni and the administration have been very helpful in my career and time at Cornell,” Mehler said. “So, I was happy to be a part of this. I’m in a unique position as an alum and a current student, and I think the world of ILR.”

The second day, students were encouraged to take a self-guided tour throughout the Ives complex to locate a series of flyers explaining various named scholarships and funds and amplifying the history and background of the named entities at the ILR School.

The event wrapped up as students were encouraged to “Thank a Donor” by sending a brief message of thanks to an ILR supporter through AAD.

Students who watched the video and completed a survey received an ILR T-shirt. If they took selfies with the flyers, they were given a plastic ILR-branded red “Solo” cup. Students who sent thank you messages earned a bamboo ILR-branded cell phone holder.

Seongwook Kwak, MILR '25
Seongwook Kwak, MILR ’25

When Giving Day arrived on March 14, the ILR School met a pair of “student challenges” funded by Raymond. The ILR Senior Challenge unlocked $5,000, as 10 members of the Class of 2024 donated, while the Underclassman/Graduate Student Challenge unlocked an additional $5,000, thanks to 15 donors.

“Jack loves doing the challenges for Giving Day, especially working with students” Spoonhower said.

“Students were participating and engaging, which is so exciting. We also saw increased student involvement on Giving Day, which is another great success.”

Emma Branft standing in from on a bulletin board covered with flyers
Emma Braff ’24

With the “great success” in the rearview mirror, the AAD staff is already looking for ways to improve next year's STAT Philanthropy Week, using feedback from this year’s participants to help the program grow.

“It is a lot easier to get somebody to love something when they're a part of it rather than after they've left,” Mehler said. “ILR has a history of demonstrating to its students how its alumni impact what they do, and we just need to do more of it. The more people can be engaged, the more likely they are to give. The more likely they are to give, the more engaged they become.

“It’s a positive feedback loop.”