About 400 members of the VCU community — many of them students — signed posters, penned handwritten notes and recorded video messages thanking donors for supporting VCU at "Thank a Donor Day." (Photo credit: Mitchell Moore/Office of Development and Alumni Relations)

VCU students say ‘thanks’ to donors at philanthropy event

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Casey Spencer received a dean’s scholarship as an undergraduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University. She tries to add a personal touch to the letters she writes to donors.

She tells them they are helping her pursue a career in forensic science. She thanks them for supporting VCU. 

“They are helping students fulfill their dreams,” said Spencer, now a second-year graduate student in the College of Humanities and Sciences. “I’ve talked about my studies, how the donation has helped and where I’m going in life thanks to them.” 

Spencer was one of many students thinking, talking and writing about philanthropy Wednesday at “Thank a Donor Day,” an event organized by the Office of Development and Alumni Relations recognizing those who give back to the university. Spencer and about 400 members of the VCU community signed posters, penned notes and recorded video messages thanking donors for supporting VCU. 

“They provide scholarships, help students travel abroad, and support the athletic department. They’ve donated to this great beautiful new library,” Spencer said, pointing to James Branch Cabell Library, which completed a $51 million renovation and expansion in 2015. “I just think it’s really important to let them know that we are grateful for everything they have done for us.” 

Spencer was volunteering at “Thank a Donor Day” with Students Today Alumni TomorrowWednesday’s event, held on the Compass, was the first of two donor stewardship events scheduled for this fall.

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Philanthropy at VCU comes in many forms, said Kejdi Abazi, a senior in the College of Humanities and Sciences. Abazi, a member of STAT, is studying health sciences. She also is an intern at Rams in Recovery, a VCU program for students recovering from drug and alcohol addiction or other addictive behavior. Rams in Recovery exists largely through donations and grant support. 

“I see firsthand what giving can do to a program,” Abazi said. “It helped [Rams in Recovery] create a recovery clubhouse and study spaces for students in recovery and also provide scholarships.”

Abazi recently made her first gift to VCU. 

“Giving is about making a change in someone else’s life, that's why I give,” she said. “Getting that email confirming I had made a gift was an amazing feeling.” 

VCU is currently in the public phase of a $750 million philanthropic campaign to support critical university initiatives and fuel growth in three primary areas: people, innovations and environments. The university has raised more than $537 million during the campaign. More than 30,000 gifts were made to VCU during the 2017 fiscal year, which ended June 30

“Donors make this school what it is,” said Yasmeen Lasheen, a senior in the School of Business. “There are so many things donors do to give back and this is one way we can try and give back to them.” 

Lasheen, president of VCU’s College Panhellenic Council, said the handwritten notes — which often include the name of the student, their hometown, academic major and class year — are a personal way of thanking donors. 

“They are giving back to this university for us. I feel like [this is] the least we can do,” she said. 

That was a common sentiment Wednesday

“This event is important because a lot of times [giving] may go unnoticed,” said Austin Stewart, a member of STAT and a junior in the College of Humanities and Sciences studying sociology and medical humanities.

Stewart glanced around the Compass. 

“I wrote a card, just wanted to thank the donors for all the opportunities they have given me,” he said. “It’s great that the student body can come together and be unified and say ‘thank you.’”