Katie Samek – Staff Writer
This week was Gustie Gratitude Week, an event that runs every day from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Feb. 20-24 at the booths located in the Caf. This event provides students with an opportunity to thank the countless donors who help fund various endeavors around campus, from various academic scholarships to international tour funds to building expansions and renovations.
At the event, you will be provided with a stack of envelopes pre-addressed to the donors that made specific funding opportunities possible for you as a student, ranging from scholarships to endowment funds and many more. You can then write a letter to these donors, thanking them for their valuable contributions to both the college and your education, and turn them into the provided baskets around the various tables. Each completed letter will earn you one entry into the daily raffles, earning you a chance to win prizes such as Apple AirPods, wireless Bluetooth speakers, massage guns, Gustie gear from the Book Mark, gift cards, and much more. Free refreshments, such as frost-your-own cookies and coffee, are also provided.
This event is a direct follow-up to the Thank-A-Thon that ran in January, in which Gustavus students could call various donors and thank them for their contributions to the college. Both events are headed by the 1998 Gustavus alumni and Assistant Director of the Gustavus Fund Molly Milinkovich, who works in tandem with the Office of Advancement in creating and hosting various student philanthropy events around campus.
“We are always looking for new ways to help students give back to the Gustavus community without donating money,” Milinkovich said. “Events like these allow students to donate their time and energy, and connect with the countless donors that fund so much of their education.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the college ran an event in 2019 known as Scholarship Thank-You Week, a similar event that allowed students who received scholarships to thank the donors who made that funding possible. After being put on hiatus for two years due to the pandemic, the event was rebranded into Gustie Gratitude Week; which not only encompasses scholarships but other forms of donor funding such as international tour endowments and building renovation projects. Head of Donor Relations and Office of Advancement member Annie Escalera hopes that by broadening the scope of the event, more students will be able to connect with the donors that made their unique academic experiences possible.
“Before Gustie Gratitude Week, students who weren’t scholarship earners had no way of connecting with the donors that help make so many of our on-campus experiences possible. By expanding the event to include all of our donors instead of just the scholarship donors, it ensures that all of our students are able to reach out and thank the people who fund their education, regardless of the opportunities they pursue or the funding they received. Plus, donors really appreciate hearing back from the students they help – the handwritten letters get the best response by far. When donors receive a thank-you letter telling them about how their funding helped a student, say, go on an international tour, they are more likely to donate money for similar events in the future when they hear how much that changed somebody’s life,” Escalera said.
A majority of Gustavus students receive some sort of financial aid funded by donors, and events like Gustie Gratitude Week provide an opportunity to build connections between donors and the students they help. While Gustie Gratitude week is still too new of an event to provide concrete statistics as to how much donations are impacted by student feedback, it is clear that donors appreciate hearing back from the student body and more events of this sort will likely be introduced in the future.
“We know that donors value confirmation that their gifts positively impact the college. Notes of gratitude and impact stories from Gustie students provide that confirmation which typically inspires donors to continue giving, and ultimately give more. Donors who hear directly from students are inclined to renew scholarships, give to our building projects, and support Gustavus programs because they feel their gifts – both big and small – are valued and have an impact,” Escalera said.