Inspired by his own Rice student experience, Arthur Belkin ’19 volunteered for this year's 24-Hour Challenge to help ensure that future students have a life-changing experience. “Rice served a crucial role in my personal life by jump-starting my career and, more importantly, providing me with life-long memories and friends,” Belkin wrote. “The unique experiences at Rice were only made possible through the generosity of countless Rice supporters who came before our Class of 2019.”
Belkin was one of more than 250 volunteers who encouraged their classmates, college-mates and friends to make a gift during Rice’s 24-Hour Challenge on April 7. Through emails, social posts, phone calls and text messages, these volunteers were essential to rallying support for the university and its students.
Ultimately, 4,727 Owls donated to funds across campus, exceeding the Challenge goal and unlocking a $250,000 challenge gift from Chuck Whitten ’98 and Lori Rudge Whitten ’99 to need-based scholarships, as well as an additional $100,000 in scholarships from President David W. Leebron and Y. Ping Sun. In total, the Rice community raised more than $2 million toward increasing affordability, enhancing residential college life, supporting graduate students and so much more.
Lavelle Fritz Ferris ’82, co-chair of her 40th Reunion Giving Committee, enjoyed both the competitive spirit of the Challenge and learning more about Rice groups and initiatives. “I find new areas for giving that I never would have discovered without the Challenge, and sharing the Challenge with classmates is a great way for them learn about giving opportunities across campus,” Ferris said.
The efforts of the Challenge volunteers began with an annual volunteer kickoff call about a month prior to the event. Every volunteer was given a toolkit that included email and social media templates they could use to build awareness among their networks, leading up to and during the event.
“Our volunteers get very creative when contacting their own networks, as well as people on their class list,” explained Nick Stinson, director of the Rice Annual Fund. “A message from a friend or classmate is a powerful call to action.”
Volunteers shine brightest on the day of the Challenge, when they track results throughout the day and contact classmates or alumni from their residential college to boost participation. They encourage a spirit of friendly competition and highlight the 24-Hour Challenge leaderboards, which show the highest participation by college, class, new funds, returning funds and even by state.
“We are able to track gifts, so we know volunteer outreach efforts bring in higher numbers of gifts in comparison to digital marketing efforts alone,” Stinson said. “The classes with more volunteers are almost guaranteed to be at the top of the list.”
“I am so grateful to the volunteers, who want to ensure that the Rice experience they value is passed along to future Owls,” remarked Christa Langolf, associate director of the Rice Annual Fund. “The volunteers imbue this project with heart and soul, reminding us that ultimately the Challenge is about bettering minds and lives.”
“Working with alumni volunteers is a favorite part of my job,” Stinson added. “Our volunteers are really driven and want to see Rice succeed. They also like to have fun, and this is a volunteer opportunity that lets them accomplish both goals.”